by Geoffrey Farthing


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Key to abbreviated titles
Books I Introduction
Chapter 1
About Esoteric Science
Chapter 2
The Scope and Framework of the Science
Chapter 3
The Occult Constitution of Man and Cosmos
Chapter 4
The Hierarchies of Being
Chapter 5
Akasha and the Astral Light
Chapter 6
 Elements and Elementals
Chapter 7
Law in Cosmos and Human Life
Chapter 8
Death and Rebirth
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Globes, Rounds and Races
Chapter 11
Ever-Becoming - The Processes of Evolution
Chapter 12
Spiritualism and Psychism
Chapter 13
Spiritual Development
Chapter 14



Document 2 on web

Book -2-    
Chapter 1 
About Esoteric Science
Chapter 2
The Scope and Framework of the Science
Chapter 3
The Occult Constitution of Man and Cosmos
Chapter 4
The Hierarchies of Be
Chapter 5
Akasha and the Astral Light
Chapter 6
 Elements and Elementals
Chapter 7
Law in Cosmos and Human Life
Chapter 8
Death and Rebirth
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Globes, Rounds and Races
Chapter 11
Ever-Becoming - The Processes of Evolution
Chapter 12
Spiritualism and Psychism
Chapter 13
Spiritual Development
Chapter 14


A thread of Esotericism runs through the chronicled events of the world's history. Although the origins of the esoteric tradition are lost in the mists of time, the tradition itself may be discerned in the myths and fairy-tales of many cultures, with their stories of giants, dragons, magicians and wise men. As we approach historical times, we come to the legendary semi-divine figures of Krishna in India, Hermes in Egypt, Mithras in Persia, followed in due course by the great historical teachers known to us as Gautama the Buddha, Lao-tse and Jesus. In the west, the esoteric tradition is evident in the Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plato, as also among the Gnostics, Valentinus, Basilides and Simon Magus among others. Ruthlessly suppressed by the Christian Church, it nevertheless emerges among the mediaeval Rosicrucians, Alchemists and Hermetists, and is in part made explicit in the works of individual writers such as Robert Fludd and Jacob Boehme.

The condition of western thought in the latter part of the 19th century, with religion in conflict with materialistic science, made it necessary for the Guardians of the esoteric tradition to let its existence be more openly known. For the first time in recorded history some parts of the teachings were given out publicly in the early literature of the theosophical movement.

The author of the present work has attempted to offer an outline of the teachings of Esoteric Science, with abundant reference to the great literature in which the student may discover for himself something of the scope and grandeur of the Wisdom tradition.


The compilation of the work has gone on over many years and it has seen many changes. The author is very grateful particularly to two editors: Miss Muriel Daw, one time editor of the Buddhist Society's magazine, who did an extensive preliminary edit of this work; it was later felt, however, that there was too much material in it and Miss Ianthe H. Hoskins, then General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in England, did some ruthless pruning, virtually rewriting the book and adding some further apt quotations, to make it more readable and informative for the general reader. The author is also particularly grateful to Jill Leslie for much typing and he patient work on the index. The author, as a non-literary man, is very grateful to these ladies for the great help he received from them. Thanks are also due to Eldon Tucker, for managing the book material for printing, and for more careful work on the index.

The author also acknowledges an irredeemable debt of gratitude to H.P. Blavatsky and her Adept Teachers who made what knowledge of Esoteric Science we have available to us. 




There is a very wide literature covering the subjects dealt with in this book but, as explained in the introduction, the writings of H.P. Blavatsky have been taken to be the most informative and authoritative that there are available. Her knowledge was from two sources, one her Initiate Teachers and second her own insights, her own apperception, her intuition resulting from great inherent gifts and intense training. Her Teachers also committed much to writing, a very rare occurrence where genuine Occultism is concerned.

Books by H.P. Blavatsky are as follows:


1. ISIS UNVEILED : 1877; J.W.Bouton, New York; subtitle: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology; a large work in two volumes of over 600 pages each.

This is a mine of information, some of it very little known, and a mass of enlightened comment on the science and theology of the day. While some of this is out of date, much in the book is of an enduring nature. This book, while being regarded by some as iconoclastic, is liberating. It helps us to free ourselves from our prejudices and preconceptions. It is in a number of editions, by various publishers, but the text is the same in them all.


2. THE SECRET DOCTRINE : 1888; The Theosophical Publishing Company, London; subtitle: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy; two volumes of some 1500 pages altogether.

This is a massive work of great erudition, some 1100 other works being referred to in the text. It outlines the vast scheme of knowledge of the nature and function of Cosmos available to mankind in the extensive world literature on the subject and adds some items of great significance, not previously given out. In spite of the work's extent and depth, H.P.B. says that in it only "a corner of the veil" was lifted.

In her preface H.P.B. says, "The aim of this work may thus be stated: to show that Nature is not 'a fortuitous concurrence of atoms' and to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe, etc. etc.". She further says that it, The Secret Doctrine, is as much as 20th century man can apprehend.


3. THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY : 1889; numerous editions about 250 pages; "Dedicated by H.P.B. to all her pupils that they may Learn and Teach in their turn".

This book covers the main aspects of the teaching as they affect mankind. She discusses among others the Wisdom-Religion, Occultism, Spiritualism, God and Prayer, the septenary Nature of Man, the After-death states, Reincarnation, the Complex Nature of Mind, Karma, etc. etc.; all this by way of question and answer.


4. THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE : 1889; numerous editions; about 250 pages; subtitle: Chosen Fragments from the "Book of the Golden Precepts" - for the Daily Use of Lanoos [Disciples]; it is "dedicated to the Few".

This is a book small in volume but massive in content. It is in three Fragments: the first entitled The Voice of Silence, of 100 verses; the second, The Two Paths, of 95 verses; the third, The Seven Portals, of 120 verses. This is a work intended for the aspirant after true, or self, knowledge, aiming to play a significant part in helping mankind along its arduous evolutionary path to ultimate self-redemption and liberation.


5. THE COLLECTED WRITINGS : edited by Boris de Zirkoff; 14 volumes.

This is a collection of H.P.B.'s numerous writings by way of articles, published letters, stories and so on, written during the period 1875 to 1891, arranged chronologically. These writings contain much teaching which supplements (and is entirely consistent with) what is contained in her books.

Some of the material gives an insight into how the teachings could affect the lot of humanity in the circumstances of earth life, having regard to its traditions, institutions, ignorances, superstitions and so on. They are particularly illuminating on such subjects as spiritualism, the Christian religion, and Occultism generally. Always H.P.B. has an eye to essentials, to objective facts, which she sees clearly against the background of her encyclopaedic knowledge. In these works is to be found much wisdom and inspiration.


6. THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P.SINNETT : 1923; first published by Rider & Co., London; 500 pages.

This is a volume of letters received from H.P.B.'s two initiate Teachers, in answer to questions put to them mostly by A.P. Sinnett with some by A.O. Hume. The letters contain much metaphysical and philosophical teaching in the occult tradition, among much material relating to the early days of the Theosophical Society and the people in or associated with it. Many aspects of the teaching, among them those relating to the after-death states, are unique, having been kept secret up to that time. This is a book essential to any serious student of modern Occultism. It is the source of the main principles of the subject given and elaborated in H.P.B.'s writings.


7. TRANSACTIONS OF THE BLAVATSKY LODGE : Theosophical University Press, Covine, California.

A collection of notes, in question and answer form, taken at a series of meetings of the Lodge, in the first six months of 1889, at which H.P.B. was present.


8. FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY : from the writings of H.P. Blavatsky; compiled by I.H. Hoskins; The Theosophical Publishing House; 66 pages including a glossary and as an appendix THE SECRET DOCTRINE AND ITS STUDY.

This booklet is a compilation from The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled, of excerpts which summarize the principle aspects of the great teaching.


9. MADAME BLAVATSKY ON HOW TO STUDY THEOSOPHY : The Theosophical Publishing House; 15 pages.

This is a booklet, referred to in the text as the 'Bowen Notes', containing material written down by Robert Bowen from talks which Madame Blavatsky gave to those near her during the close of her life. The content is in the form of important hints to students.


There are many other books, more or less reliable, which are virtually commentaries on the above source books. Some of these purport to be in the same tradition and to be expansions and extensions or even up-datings of the originals. Students are advised, however, to become really familiar with what H.P.B. and her Masters gave out, before studying later versions.

Some books do follow the teachings faithfully and in so far as they give another point of view, or summarize or systematize the vast mass of information in the original works, do help the student. Books of this type are:


10. ESOTERIC BUDDHISM : A.P. Sinnett; Theosophical Publishing House.

A book first published in 1885 from material received by A.P. Sinnett in letters (see 6 above) from the two Adepts who instigated through H.P.B. the founding of the Theosophical Society. It made a connected narrative of much information about the esoteric side of Nature, not made public before.


11. THE DIVINE PLAN : Geoffrey A. Barborka; 1964; The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, India; 520 pages.

This book deals with aspects of the subject as doctrines, twelve of them. Within each of these, information relating to it throughout the main work has been collected together in an orderly fashion; a valuable student book.



He was one of H.P.B.'s early collaborators in founding the Theosophical Society and was himself a long-time pupil of her Master.


As an aid to getting a feeling for the subject and to obtaining a perspective view of H.P.B. in the setting of contemporary life, of her character and of the enormous and distressing difficulties she encountered, but which she largely overcame, readers are recommended to read one or two of the reliable biographies, of which the following is a selection:


My Guest - H.P. Blavatsky : Francesca Arundale

Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky : Bertram Keightley

Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky : A.P. Sinnett

Reminiscences of H.P. Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine : Countess Wachtmeister


Blavatsky and Her Teachers : Jean Overton Fuller

When Daylight Comes : Howard Murphet

Personal Memoirs of H.P. Blavatsky : Mary K. Neff



I.U.       is ISIS UNVEILED (2 Vols) by H.P. Blavatsky


M.L.     is THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT edited by A.T. Barker. References are to 1st/2nd Ed., and 3rd Ed.


S.D.      is THE SECRET DOCTRINE - 2,3 or 5 Vols (and indexes) according to edition - by H.P. Blavatsky. References are given to the three editions in current use in date order thus:

1st Ed. (1888); 3rd Ed. (1893); Adyar 6 Volume Ed.


KEY     is THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY by H.P. Blavatsky. All page numbers refer to the original edition.


V.S.      is THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE by H.P. Blavatsky


C.W.     is the volumes in the series THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY (14 Vols) edited by Boris de Zirkoff.


T.G.      is THE THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY by H.P. Blavatsky (and others).




E.B.      is ESOTERIC BUDDHISM by A.P. Sinnett








D.P.      is THE DIVINE PLAN by Geoffrey Barborka



ESOTERIC SCIENCE may be defined as the body of religious, philosophical and scientific teachings that form the core of a universal and timeless Wisdom tradition: religious, for it is concerned with the ultimate source of being and man's relation to it; philosophical, for it embraces the great questions of the origin and nature of man and the universe and the inter-relatedness of the parts within the whole; scientific, for its methods are essentially empirical, its exponents having individually and independently tested and corroborated the teachings received from earlier generations of wise men. Esoteric Science is, then, knowledge of the truths of existence, a knowledge acquired from time immemorial through the development of faculties which all mankind possesses but which remain in most of us in a state of latency.

Every religion and culture has its tradition of prophets and seers. In the literature of Esotericism, reference is made to them under various names - Adepts, Initiates, Rishis, Mahatmas, Maha-gurus, Masters of Wisdom. Although fully human, they have by their own effort broken through the limitations of common humanity. By means of a long and rigorous self-training through many lifetimes, they have passed beyond the levels of ordinary men and women in intellectual stature, sanctity of life and spiritual enlightenment. In accordance with the laws of the occult fraternity into which they have entered, their powers - well recognized in the literature of yoga - are utilized only for the advancement of the human race in its evolutionary progress. What is more, they affirm that the knowledge and powers which they possess and demonstrate are accessible to all who will undergo the disciplines by which, and by which alone, such attainment is possible.

The literature of Esoteric Science is extensive, in both its ancient and its modern presentations. Its doctrines are shown to be the source of the world's great religions, although time, ignorance and human corruption have distorted the original truths and obscured the profound significance of the symbolism in which they were inevitably clothed. There is no doubt that a return to the pure source must radically disturb entrenched attachment to the familiar exoteric teachings. It requires courage to break free from popular and generally accepted ways of thought, abandoning thereby the security of common patterns of belief for the as yet unexplored territory of the esoteric traditions.

To the task of liberating the mind of western man from its subservience to convention and authority - (we are here in the last decade of the 19th century) - Madame Blavatsky set her courageous hand. She attacked on three fronts, opposing the religious dogmatism and scientific conceit of the day as well as the ignorant and gullible spiritualism then prevalent. But the vigorous polemics of her earlier writings were a necessary preliminary to the work that was to follow - the restoration of the esoteric tradition. Inevitably she made herself the target for hostility and personal abuse, but there is a curious endorsement of the validity of the doctrines of Esotericism that she was enunciating in the fact that her enemies were unable to find any weapon against her teachings other than slander against her person - a position which continues to this day.

Reliable accounts of Madame Blavatsky's life and of the launching of the theosophical movement are given in the Bibliography, together with a list of her voluminous writings. The extent of this literary output is indeed remarkable, especially so when one bears in mind that it was produced in a language foreign to her, during seventeen years of frequent travel and almost continuous ill-health.

Before proceeding to the text, the student who would be guided in his approach to the vast field of Esoteric Science is strongly recommended to study carefully the Preliminary Note that follows.


The subject matter of this work is presented in chapters, each of which treats of one facet of Esoteric Science. The chapters of Book I are introductory and discursive, their aim being to offer an overall view of the field. Although introductory, they cannot be elementary, for at all stages the study of Esoteric Science demands a sustained effort on the part of the student. Book II, divided into similar chapters, offers supplementary and supporting material, with many extracts from the original literature. These extracts are selected for their explanatory value, and for their elaboration of the information outlined in Book I.

The student is recommended to make himself familiar with the contents of Book I first, by reading it with attention, preferably more than once, noting as he proceeds not only the questions that arise in his mind but also what appear to him to be the most significant statements of the science as presented under each chapter heading. When he has assimilated the essential data given in this first part, he would do well to read once more each of the chapters of Book I, but turning now, after each one, to the study of the corresponding chapter in Book II. Here the compiler has made what is inevitably a personal selection of significant and interesting supporting passages from the source books. Later on, the student is recommended to study these passages in their context, hence the provision of ample references which, if followed, will lead him into an inexhaustible mine of information and inspiration.

One of the most important documents to which attention is directed is the small compilation of Madame Blavatsky's final instructions to students known as "the Bowen notes". These are published in a pamphlet entitled Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy, and are reproduced in the Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy (see Bibliography). In these notes, recorded only three weeks before her death, we find not only her personal advice to her students on how to approach the study of The Secret Doctrine, but also one more statement of the basic ideas of Esoteric Science , the first of which -it cannot be too often repeated - is that of the essential unity of existence: "all existence is ONE THING". The moment one loses sight of this fundamental unity, she warns, "the idea of SEPARATION supervenes, and the study loses its value".

The field of Esoteric Science is limitless, its horizon ever receding as the student advances towards it. Its exploration is not easy, but the satisfaction - the excitement, even - of the insights awaiting discovery is the reward assured to every adventurer.

Do but set out; you could be on your way into a new and wonderful world.



There is a tradition throughout the world of a Golden Age, a time when there were Divine Teachers instructing a young humanity in the skills and knowledge necessary for its survival and development. It was a time when the Gods moved among men, when there were heroes who performed mighty deeds of daring and endurance, when there were saints and prophets, magicians and wise men. Much of this tradition is preserved in folk-lore, in legends and fairy-stories which fire the imagination. While we know that the tales are merely tales, we recognize an underlying truth beneath the fiction of the story. We instinctively admire the virtues and the heroic qualities of the principal characters, adopting them as ideals and seeking to imitate them, in imagination if not in act. Yet the question may suggest itself: is there indeed the possibility, for the ordinary individual, of becoming other than ordinary? - of developing qualities and powers similar to those of the heroes and saints? - of acquiring the secret knowledge possessed by the magicians and wise men of the tales of our childhood?

The universality of the traditions of folk-lore suggest that the popular stories are the cloak of a profound science, a genuine knowledge of Nature and her laws. The hero attains his goal by obedience to the conditions imposed upon him, persevering in his quest through the utmost trials and temptations. Similarly, the one who would penetrate the secrets of Nature has to conform himself to Nature's own laws, developing in understanding and moral strength as he commits himself to the one-pointed pursuit of his goal.


This book is written for those in whom the desire to know has awakened and who are prepared to make the necessary effort, intellectual and moral, required for the treading of the ancient but ever-present way. The Wise Ones who have trodden that way have left us all the information we need for the undertaking. Their instructions include rules of conduct for everyday living, warnings about the dangers and difficulties that will surely be encountered, and detailed information about the nature of man - our nature - and his potentialities.

While much of the teaching has necessarily remained secret, in order to preserve its purity and to prevent its abuse, enough has always been available in the Scriptures of the great religions and in the writings of mystics and enlightened philosophers for those who have earnestly sought to respond to the call of the inner life. In the 19th century, however, because of the threat posed by materialistic science to the spiritual evolution of humanity, some parts of the secret teaching were for the first time made public through the theosophical movement and in particular through the writings of H.P.Blavatsky.


On the title-page of her encyclopaedic work, The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky describes it as "the synthesis of science, religion and philosophy", a description that indicates the all-embracing nature of Theosophy, which is Occult Science. "The Secret Doctrine", she writes (referring here to the archaic tradition), "was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world" [The Secret Doctrine-I, xxxiv/I, 18 /I, 56 ]. Yet Theosophy is not a religion in any sectarian sense, for it is not a belief-system, nor can its origins be traced to any particular teacher. Founders of religion, she states further, "were all transmitters, not original teachers. They were the authors of new forms and interpretations, while the truths upon which the latter were based were as old as mankind" [The Secret Doctrine-I, xxxvi /I, 20 /I, 58]. For Theosophy is knowledge (sophia) - "the last word of possible human knowledge" [The key to theosophy - I, 7] - embracing the universe in its totality, that is, Nature visible and invisible.

Just as the physical sciences learn more and more about external nature by the development of new instruments and techniques of observation and experiment, so Occult Science has arrived at the knowledge of the facts of existence by the development, in the investigators themselves, of the requisite faculties. These investigators, the great Adepts recognized in every tradition, had "developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions - so obtained as to stand as independent evidence - of other adepts, and by centuries of experience" [The Secret Doctrine-1, 273 /I,294 /I, 316]. In insisting that Occult Science is not a body of hypothesis but "knowledge based on observation and experience", Mme Blavatsky writes further:


The methods used by our scholars and the students of psycho-spiritual sciences do not differ from those of students of the natural and physical sciences ... Only our fields of research are on two different planes, and our instruments are made by no human hands, for which reason perchance they are only the more reliable. The retorts, accumulators, and microscopes of the chemist and naturalist may get out of order; the telescope and the astronomer's horological instruments may get spoiled; our recording instruments are beyond the influence of weather or the elements. [The key to theosophy - VI, 87]

The path to enlightenment, which is the path to direct knowledge, is a common feature of the great Scriptures and mystical writings of all cultures. Under various disguises, it is the subject of myths and legends and is transmitted in the simplest of fairy-tales. It is the way of self transformation, beginning with the conscious determination to set out, imperfect as one knows oneself to be, towards the goal of human perfection and the realization of "the deific powers in man and the possibilities contained in nature" [  The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -I, 2:2].




The field of Esoteric Science is as vast as life itself, for it embraces the whole of Nature, visible and invisible. Nevertheless, the more one advances in its study, the more one recognizes that this limitless scheme of things, though having "neither conceivable beginning nor imaginable end", is an orderly, integrated whole, in which every part is intimately related to every other part. It may be compared to a wheel in which the hub, spokes and rim, although distinctive in form and function, are inseparable parts of one whole. It follows that the student may begin his exploration from any point he chooses; sooner or later, he will reach every corner of the field.

In this book, the order in which the various aspects of the subject are approached is determined by the three principles which are characteristic of the whole system. These are: the principle of unity, the principle of law and the principle of evolution. The contents of the chapters in which the subjects are studied in greater detail are briefly summarized in the numbered sections below.

1. The unity of all things.

All existence is ONE THING. This ONE THING is variously called the One Life, the One Reality; it is the source of Being, and of all beings; it is in everything - in fact, it is everything, for there is nothing else.


the root of all nature, objective and subjective, and everything else in the universe, visible or invisible, is, was and ever will be one absolute essence, from which all starts, and into which everything returns ... [The key to theosophy - III, 43]

In all subsequent study, this fundamental fact must never be lost from sight; all forms that come into being, from atoms to men, are animated by the same Life; the forms disintegrate, the Life remains. We human beings are one with it; our life is that Life.

Explaining how Theosophy views "God, Soul and Man", Mme Blavatsky states:


In their origin and in eternity, the three, i.e. God, the soul and man, like the universe and all therein, are one with the absolute unity, the unknowable deific essence ... [The key to theosophy - VI, 83]

Although for purposes of study we divide the field of Esoteric Science into various aspects, it must constantly be reaffirmed that the aspects are facets of a UNITY. The moment one lets this idea slip from the mind, "... (and it is most easy to do so when engaged in any of the many intricate aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of SEPARATION supervenes, and the study loses its value". [Madame Blavatsky on how to study theosophy -, 9]

2. Origins.

The universe and all that is in it are subject to a timeless process described as "Days and Nights", alternating periods of activity and rest. According to the occult teaching, there is no creation, in the sense of something being made out of nothing. There is indeed nothing new under the sun.


We believe in no creation, but in the periodical and consecutive appearances of the universe from the subjective on to the objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of immense duration. [The key to theosophy - VI, 83]

There is therefore nothing that can properly be called a beginning, for what is commonly called creation is only the periodical re-emergence of things - forms or entities - which already existed. With the coming of night, everything seems to disappear , merged into a uniform darkness; as the sun rises, all things once more reappear - temporarily, just as their disappearance had been temporary. The time-scale may vary from the few hours of life of an insect or the three-score years and ten of the life of man to the almost incalculable duration of a sun or a universe. Nevertheless, whether the periods be long or short, the alternation remains, a manifestation of the universal law of periodicity.

3. The sevenfold nature of Cosmos and man.

One of the esoteric keys to the understanding of life is analogy, as given in the Hermetic axiom, "As above, so below". The universe is the macrocosm, the great ordered whole, and man is its miniature reflection, the microcosm. Our experience of ourselves shows us that, as human beings, we function in a variety of ways, in physical action and in such modes of consciousness as thinking, feeling and dreaming. Esoteric Science teaches that these modes of consciousness occur at different levels, from the sensory or objective to the deeply inner or subjective. Furthermore, these levels themselves are a reflection, in the individual, of universal planes of being: just as individual physical action takes place on the physical plane, using the material of that plane, so mental activity - thought - takes place on the mental plane, using the material of that plane. There are, according to Esoteric Science, seven such planes in Nature, and similarly there are seven states of consciousness in man, in which he "can live, think, remember and have his being" [The key to theosophy - VI, 89].

4. The Hierarchies of Beings.

The Scriptures and religious traditions of all cultures make frequent reference to non-human entities, variously termed Angels, Devas, Gods, Spirits of one kind or another. In mythology these beings appear as Nature-spirits, Fairies, Sylphs, Salamanders, to name but a few. Esoteric Science supports universal tradition in affirming that the different planes of Nature are peopled by hierarchies of beings, each with characteristic properties and modes of functioning. In the Bible there are well-known instances of angelic appearances, singly as "the angel of the Lord" or as "a multitude of the heavenly host". The "thrones, dominions, principalities and powers" mentioned several times by St Paul are terms well recognized in angelology for some of the non-human hierarchies. Everywhere in Nature there is life, manifesting through infinite gradations of individual lives, for there is neither empty space nor inanimate matter anywhere in the universe.

5. Elements and Elementals.

These are examples of the hierarchical structure of the Cosmos. The Elements, in Esoteric Science, are seven in number, the four familiar ones of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, to which it adds a semi-material Ether that is still invisible to us, and two others which are "as yet absolutely beyond the range of human perception" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 12 /I, 40 /I, 78]. Yet all of these, it must always be remembered, are aspects of the One Universal Element, the source of all objective existence.


These seven elements with their numberless Sub-Elements ... are simply conditional modifications and aspects of the ONE and only Element. [Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha)]

Elementals is the term used to refer to beings who are beginning a course of evolutionary growth, and who thus are in the elemental state of growth. In general the term refers to beings who are below the mineral kingdom in the evolutionary scheme. Their existence is universally recognized in folk-lore under such names as fairies, elves, gnomes and suchlike, as mentioned earlier. But they are best understood as forces in Nature rather than as beings having miniature or ethereal human shapes.

6. Universal Law.

It is apparent even to superficial observation that the universe operates according to Law. All our sciences and technologies are based on the recognition of this fact. This law is not imposed from outside but is the very nature of the Cosmos. Fundamentally it is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction, by which the Cosmos as a whole, and all its parts individually, are ordered and regulated. The Law is in itself Wisdom, Intelligence and Power; it is the Wisdom that "mightily and sweetly ordereth all things" [Wisdom of Solomon (Apocrypha)], operating through the Hierarchies of beings by which the Cosmos is made and maintained as one harmonious whole.

7. Akasha and the Astral Light.

Here there is introduced a teaching that goes far beyond anything known to today's sciences. Although not easy to grasp at first, it will be found to throw much light on areas of experience at present little understood even by psychology, for example, the mystical and psychic.

It has been stated (in paragraph 4 above), that there is no such

thing as empty space in the universe. Esoteric Science teaches that the entire cosmos is pervaded by Akasha, primordial substance, or rather the noumenon - the non-sensuous reality - beyond substance. In the Theosophical Glossary, Akasha (from a Sanskrit word meaning "brilliant" or "luminous") is described as "the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space". This primordial substance differentiates into all the forms of matter, those of the invisible as of the visible regions of the universe. Hence the definition of Akasha as "the Universal Soul ... from which all that exists is born by separation or differentiation. It is the cause of existence; it fills all the infinite Space".

The lowest region of Akasha, immediately above the gross physical plane, is termed the Astral Light. It is "the invisible region that surrounds our globe" and everything in it, and corresponds to the subtle vehicle or "double" in man, the linga sharira. In it is impressed indelibly everything that takes place in the physical, psychical and mental realms. It is thus the storehouse of memory, both in the cosmos and in mankind.

8. Rebirth.

In the study of the constitution of man according to Occultism, two aspects of his inner nature are recognized, one mortal - the psyche or soul, and the other immortal - the spiritual essence. (In everyday parlance, and in much religious usage, the words "soul" and "spirit" are used loosely and often interchangeably. Particular attention must be paid to the precise meaning attached to them in the present study.) The spiritual essence in man, a persistent entity, attaches itself periodically to a succession of personalities which it projects into the objective world. In so doing, it obeys the universal cyclic law that operates throughout Nature. The temporary personality comprises a complex mortal non-physical component, the psyche or soul, housed in a body of flesh.

It will be seen that rebirth, or reincarnation, is not a peculiarity of mankind; it is a particular instance of that law of alternation of activity and rest, that may be observed in the natural world - the cyclic process of birth, growth, decay and death of the form, and the persistence of the life through successive forms.

9. After-Death States.

The preceding section states that in the life of man there are alternating periods of activity and rest, or, more precisely, periods of incarnation - that is, life in a body of flesh - alternating with periods of discarnate existence, analogous to the twenty-four hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep. In Section 3 of this chapter, some information was outlined concerning the seven planes of Nature and the seven states of consciousness. Incarnation is the process of assuming vestures or vehicles through which consciousness can function in the lower planes; death is the process of withdrawal from these vestures. It must already be evident to the student that every aspect of Esoteric Science is inextricably related to every other aspect. To understand death and the after-death states, one must study the sevenfold constitution of man and cosmos, and this must lead to - or be preceded by - the study of Akasha and the Astral Light. Nevertheless, whatever aspect is being considered, it must be seen as part of a whole, the functioning of which, in all its parts, is subject to universal law. At every stage of the study it is necessary to remind oneself of these facts.

10. The Nature of Spiritualistic Phenomena.

Much confusion is caused by the ignorant association of the word "spiritualistic" with the word "spiritual". What are commonly called spiritualistic phenomena are in fact psychic phenomena, that is, phenomena explicable in terms of the lower levels of the next plane, little removed from the physical world perceived by the ordinary senses. For the most part, this physical world is the only one of which we are aware, because we do not possess faculties responsive to stimuli on higher planes. In some people - mediums and sensitives - psychic faculties are more or less developed, enabling them to hear and see things of which others are not aware. However, there is nothing spiritual in the possession of such faculties, unless they have been brought under the control of the will of the individual; such conscious control alone can properly be termed spiritual, for it is a manifestation of the awakened power of the essential man, the Spirit.

11. Evolution.

Evolution is the emergence of the possibilities inherent in Nature from latency into active expression. The word means, literally, unfolding, and it implies the prior process of involution by which the potentialities of spirit are communicated to matter.

Esoteric Science affirms the universality of the evolutionary process:


The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations is a proof of this. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 277 /I, 297 /I, 320]

Here we must return to the Hierarchies of Sections 4 and 5, for the evolutionary process is not a mechanical one but is "guided, controlled and animated by an almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 274 /I, 295 /I, 317].

12. Rounds and Races.

These are the terms used to indicate states in the great evolutionary cycles. In our cosmic scheme, they are applied particularly to our Earth and its humanity. Like everything else in Nature, planets have their period of activity and rest, their days and nights, analogous to human life and death. A grand evolutionary programme is in operation throughout the Cosmos, each part of which - whether it be planet or kingdom of nature or human group - has to pass through sequential phases of development towards its particular goal.

In the study of the programme for humanity, it will be important to note that the term "Race" indicates a stage in the evolution of humanity consciousness. It applies to the development of mental and psychic faculties as well as to the superficial physical characteristics such as skin colour or hair type.

13. Spiritual Development.

If examined in the light of Esoteric Science , this term appears to be a misnomer. Mankind is a stage in an immense journey, the pilgrimage of "the Many to the Everlasting One" [The Meaning of Man, by Clifford Bax]. The object of the journey is the realization of the essential unity of life, the experience of the One consciousness which pervades the whole. The development is in effect the increase in the responsiveness of living instruments, so that the consciousness of the individual becomes identified eventually with, or merged into, that of the other units of humanity who have transcended the limitations of purely personal existence.

Human life, with its vicissitudes and suffering, has appropriately been called a training ground, the school of life, in which the main lesson to be learned is the elimination of selfishness in all its forms. Selfishness, the "great dire heresy", is a denial of the fact of unity and will be seen as the source of many of the problems of mankind. Similarly, all that contributes to breaking down the walls of separateness - altruism, compassion, love - must promote the spiritual evolution of the individual and of the human race.

14. Religion.

Various terms have been used to refer to the esoteric tradition, Theosophy. It is Esoteric Science, the Ancient Wisdom, the Secret Doctrine and the Wisdom-Religion. But in using this last term, care must be taken not to see in it a religion comparable to Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity or any other of the religions of man. The Wisdom-Religion is the source of all of these, and the study of the similarities in their traditions, forms and doctrines will show that in essentials they must stem from a common origin.

One of the aims that Mme Blavatsky set before herself in The Secret Doctrine is particularly relevant:


to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions, and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring. [The Secret Doctrine-I, viii /I, xxi /I, 9]

The state of religion today, the perpetuation of forms in ignorance of the truths they represent, shows the need for the wide dissemination of Esoteric Science if that aim is to be achieved.

Throughout the study of Esoteric Science, it should be recognized that what is presented to us here is not speculation or hypothesis but knowledge - knowledge possessed by men who, by the development within themselves of the necessary faculties, made themselves able to investigate at first hand the hidden side of Nature.


The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: e.g., even in the exotericism of the Puranas. But such is the mysterious power of Occult symbolism, that the facts which have actually occupied countless generations of initiated seers and prophets to marshal, to set down and explain, in the bewildering series of evolutionary progress, are all recorded on a few pages of geometrical signs and glyphs. The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the "soul of things", and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. It is useless to say that the system in question is no fancy of one or several isolated individuals. That it is the uninterrupted record covering thousands of generations of Seers whose respective experiences were made to test and to verify the traditions passed orally by one early race to another, of the teachings of higher and exalted beings, who watched over the childhood of Humanity. That for long ages, the "Wise Men" of the Fifth Race, of the stock saved and rescued from the last cataclysm and shifting of continents, had passed their lives in learning, not teaching. How did they do so? It is answered: by checking, testing and verifying in every department of nature the traditions of old by the independent visions of great adepts; i.e., men who have developed and perfected their physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual organizations to the utmost possible degree. No vision of one adept was accepted till it was checked and confirmed by the visions - so obtained as to stand as independent evidence - of other adepts, and by centuries of experience. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 272 /I, 293 /I, 316]



In this chapter we take up the themes outlined in the third paragraph of Chapter 2, beginning with the Hermetic axiom, "as above, so below". Like every science, Esoteric Science has its special terminology, and much of this chapter will serve as an expanded glossary of the terms used in Occultism in the study of man and the universe.

Man is a microcosm reflecting in miniature the composition and processes of the macrocosm, the total universe. What we find in the one is to be found in the other, and consequently, by studying the one we may learn, by analogy, the corresponding picture of the other.

A familiar division of the human constitution describes man as threefold - body, soul and spirit. Esotericism makes use of the same division (found also in Plato and Paul), but shows the complex nature of each of the three parts. The body itself is regarded as threefold, consisting - in addition to the gross physical part - of a subtle or ethereal counterpart and of a vital principle or life-force, prana. Soul is composed of two elements recognized in experience as the feeling and thinking aspects of ourselves. Body and soul together constitute the human personality. The spiritual nature of man is also threefold and is the true individuality which, during incarnation, becomes associated with, or focused in, the personality. English has no precise term for the three aspects of Spirit, hence the use in theosophical literature of the Sanskrit terms atma, buddhi and manas, which are explained in the paragraphs that follow. The distinction between personality, the ordinary man, and individuality, the spiritual man, should be particularly noted.

In The Key to Theosophy (Chapter VI) this information is set out clearly in a table describing each of the seven aspects, usually referred to as principles, and giving their Sanskrit names. Further information is given in Chapters 8 and 9. In this chapter the relevant statements from all three chapters have been gathered together, but students are recommended to refer to the passages in the Key itself in order to build up their own picture of the occult constitution of man.

[Note: The transliteration of Sanskrit characters into the letters of the English alphabet presents a difficulty. At the time when the early theosophical books were being published, the method of transliteration had not been standardized, and writers attempted to give a phonetic approximation to the Sanskrit sounds. In later years, with advances in scholarship, changes in the system of transliteration have been made to represent more accurately sounds which, in some cases, do not exist in spoken English. The addition of diacritical marks is a further aid to correct transliteration, but as these marks will not have meaning for the general reader, they have not been used in this book.]

According to Esoteric Science , there are then in man seven principles or aspects:

1. The physical body: the vehicle of all the other principles or aspects during life.

Skt. rupa, or sthula sharira (rupa: a visible form; sthula: bulky, thick, gross; sharira: that which easily moulders or is dissolved, the outward aspect, suggesting impermanence).

2. The vital principle or life-force that permeates and animates the physical body. It is necessary only to the aspects numbered 1, 3 and 4 in this table, and to the mental functions that operate through the physical brain.

Skt. prana (breath, spirit, vital air).

3. The subtle or ethereal counterpart of the physical body. It has been variously termed the astral body or double, the phantom body, the model body. The Secret Doctrine affirms "the birth of the astral before the physical body, the former being a model for the latter" [The Secret Doctrine-II, 1 /II, 1 /III, 15 ].Skt. linga-sharira (linga: a characteristic mark, hence "model" or "pattern").

4. The vehicle of the grosser desires and passions. As no precise term exists in English, the Sanskrit term kama-rupa is generally translated as the "desire-body". This does not become a distinct body until after death. It is said to be "the seat of animal desires and passions". This fourth principle, being the middle one of the seven, is further described as "the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity" [The key to theosophy - VI, 91], but see paragraph 5 below. Skt. kama-rupa (kama: desire).

These four together form the lower quaternary or the fourfold personality, the mortal man, conditioned by the previous life, but formed anew according to karmic law for each incarnation.

Clearly distinguished from the mortal quaternary is the immortal spiritual entity, the individuality, termed "the upper imperishable triad". Its three aspects are:

5. The principle of mind which links the higher with the lower, the individuality with the personality. It is taught that formed anew, manas, the mind-principle, is "dual in its functions". During life, it may "gravitate downward to kama-rupa", that is, it may become so identified with the lower or passional nature that it must finally disintegrate with it; or it may "gravitate upward" towards the spiritual consciousness, the true Ego (see below), and so win its immortality. Manas, the mental faculty, "makes of man an intelligent and moral being, and distinguishes him from the mere animal" [The Theosophical Glossary -]. Skt. manas (the mind, from a root meaning to think).

6/7. The Monad, the essential unit of active, universal life which, together with manas, becomes the conscious reincarnating Ego, the spiritual entity overshadowing every personal man. The Monad is the combination of atma, pure spirit (ineffective by itself) and its vehicle buddhi, termed "the Spiritual Soul". As the Monad is one and indivisible, it is not an individual entity, it is the One Universal Life. Atma is regarded as "one with the Absolute, as its radiation". It can act in the lower planes only when in combination with its vehicle, buddhi, and can then only be regarded as a unit component of man's Ego when in association with Manas, man's individual mind, i.e. Ego is Monad plus Manas.

In an attempt to clarify these difficult concepts Mme Blavatsky



I. Atma, the "Higher Self", is neither your Spirit nor mine, but like sunlight shines on all. It is the universally diffused "divine principle", and is inseparable from its one and absolute Meta-Spirit, as the sunbeam is inseparable from sunlight.

II. Buddhi (the spiritual soul) is only its vehicle. Neither each separately, nor the two collectively, are of anymore use to the body of man than sunlight and its beams are for a mass of granite buried in the earth, unless the divine Duad is assimilated by, and reflected in, some consciousness ... This consciousness or mind is III. Manas ... It is, therefore, when inseparably united to the first two, called the SPIRITUAL EGO ... This is the real Individuality, or the divine man ... It is that Ego, that "Causal Body", which overshadows every personality Karma forces it to incarnate into ... [The key to theosophy - VIII, 135]

Each of the seven principles in man, the microcosm, is related to corresponding principles in the macrocosm. In the case of the physical body, this is seen at once; its constituent materials are the materials of the world around us, the physical plane, the plane of objective materiality. Prana, the vital principle in man, is shared by all the kingdoms of Nature, for "Prana or Life permeates the whole being of the objective universe" [The key to theosophy - IX, 176]. The subtle or ethereal counterpart of the physical body finds its correspondence in the invisible region that surrounds the globe and all objects in it, the Astral Light (see Chapter 2). Similarly, the energy that expresses itself in the instinctive life of the individual and in his desire-nature is drawn from an inner plane of subtle matter imperceptible to the physical senses. Further, Esoteric Science teaches that there is a Mind-principle in Nature; it is termed Mahat, Universal Mind, of which Manas, the individual mind, is a derivative. Buddhi is that universal, passive principle that makes possible any manifestation of Atma, the limitless, active, indefinable, indivisible Reality, the dynamism of the Universe.

A word of caution is appropriate here. In the everyday world of physical phenomena perceptible by the senses, we easily classify objects into their various categories. Such an approach is inappropriate when we are considering realms of being that are entirely out of the reach of the senses and remain, for the most part, beyond our experience. When, in the 1880's, Mme Blavatsky's Teachers began to give out information about the esoteric system - for the first time in English - they had first to find an appropriate vocabulary to refer to phenomena of the hidden worlds completely unknown to western philosophy. Our ordinary vocabulary is adequate for dealing with experience in a three-dimensional world and in serial time (past, present and future). The literature of Esoteric Science must of necessity use this same vocabulary to describe the realities of a totally different order of existence. It would be unwise therefore to treat the information given as though it applied to concrete phenomena similar to those of the objective world of daily experience. Our universe is one integrated whole and functions as such, not as a magnified layer-cake with a sponge base, a filling of cream and jam and a topping of chocolate and nuts. Similarly a human being is a single entity, the various principles being but "aspects and states of consciousness". Man, "the one real man", is "an embodied consciousness ... enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form" [The key to theosophy - VI, 100]. Such was the warning given by Mme Blavatsky to her London students when she explained to them that the mode of thinking required in the study of The Secret Doctrine was


what the Indians call Jnana Yoga. As one progresses in Jnana Yoga, one finds conceptions arising which, though one is conscious of them, one cannot express nor yet formulate into any sort of mental picture. This is a time to be on guard and refuse to be deluded with the idea that the new-found and wonderful picture must represent reality. It does not. As one works on, one finds the once admired picture growing dull and unsatisfying, and finally fading out or being thrown away. This is another danger point, because for the moment one is left in a void without any conception to support one, and one may be tempted to revive the cast-off picture for want of a better to cling to. The true student will, however, work on unconcerned, and presently further formless gleams come, which again in time give rise to a larger and more beautiful picture than the last. But the learner will now know that no picture will ever represent the TRUTH. This last splendid picture will grow dull and fade like the others. And so the process goes on, until at last the mind and its pictures are transcended and the learner enters and dwells in the World of NO FORM, but of which all forms are narrowed reflections. [Madame Blavatsky on how to study theosophy -, 10]

A further word of explanation may also be necessary. Buddhi has been referred to as the vehicle of Atma. The word vehicle perhaps conveys its own meaning, but why is a vehicle for Atma necessary? Similar questions can be asked: for example, what exactly is a principle of man, and what is a plane of Nature?

The Unity of Cosmos has been stressed. There is One Life, the root and origin of everything. All is living and every being a life expressing some aspects of the One Life. A further fundamental concept in Esoteric Science is that of a basic duality - a polarity inherent in everything.

In metaphysical terms the One Life manifests the duality of Spirit and Matter (discussed more fully in Chapter 5). They are inseparable. Spirit is regarded as active and positive and Matter as passive and negative. This polarity reflects into the duality, energy-matter, at the physical level; the energy being that which is locked up in - but under certain circumstances interchangeable with - matter, the material of all things at our ordinary level of objective existence. The positive-negative combination might be thought of as life-matter. As we have seen, everything in its own way is living. It derives its being, in all respects, from Life.

"As it is below so it is above - as is the outer so is the inner". In the different levels of being which constitute the inner planes of Cosmos there cannot be activity or function without active beings, that is, someone or something doing something, for which it is fitted. Each such being must have what we may call its life side and its matter side. This duality is often thought of as life and form. It is the matter or form side which is referred to as the vehicle giving a means of expression to the life side. But both life and form are aspects of life. They are living.

The matter of the seven planes of Cosmos and the principles in man must be seen in this light. They consist of lives, each with its two aspects.

Rudimentary units of life are referred to as life-atoms. Living beings are composed of hierarchies of constituent life-atoms, little lives. Planes are made up of such lives. Man and his principles are made up of such lives. There is no matter, as such, of planes, even though this expression is often used, for matter is composed of lives. Similarly man's principles can only be thought of as having a base of matter, i.e. matter of the corresponding plane, if it is remembered that the matter is in fact living. All is composed of living beings. A being in this sense is as a drop of water to an ocean: there is only water.

Sometimes the matter of the inner (i.e. non-physical) planes is referred to as substance, that which underlies matter. The planes are, in this sense, substantial, but the substance of the planes becomes more and more tenuous as the condition of pure spirit is approached. Another way of regarding this is to say that the component life atoms and the beings composed of them become, as the planes are ascended, smaller and more rarified. This is the language of the physical plane where the concept of three dimensions rules. The inner planes are dimensionless. Inner space has no extension. This, however, is an abstruse complication that needs only to be mentioned here.

A principle is then the living vehicle of a human faculty, a particular mode of function. It is an enabling agent giving effect to what would otherwise be abstract, that is, thinking or feeling as mere ideas. Spirit as such, by itself, is also regarded as a mere abstraction. A plane, like a principle is also a mode of cosmic function which can only operate through lives developed and conditioned to work in a particular way.




In outlining the subject of Hierarchies in Chapter 2, certain fundamental ideas were set out: life is universal; it is expressed in an almost infinite variety of forms throughout Nature; there are no empty spaces and no inanimate matter anywhere. In Chapter 3 a beginning was made to present another basic principle, that of correspondence or reflection summarized in the Hermetic axiom, "As above, so below". This preparation will assist the understanding of the esoteric teaching of Hierarchies of Beings.

Life is universal: Esoteric Science shows "... every atom of substance, no matter of what plane, to be in itself a LIFE" [Madame Blavatsky on how to study theosophy -, 9]. Where there is life, there is consciousness: "Everything in the universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS, i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 274 /I, 295 /I, 317]. During this century, scientific research has corroborated statements such as these by demonstrating responsiveness not only in plants but even in metals with the consequent elimination of any firm line of demarcation between the animate and so-called inanimate realms of Nature (vid. The Secret Life of Plants: Tompkins and Bira). Yet Mme Blavatsky was writing long before the development of such tools of research as the electron microscope and other supersensitive instruments.

The human body presents a miniature model of the hierarchical structure of the cosmos. The chemical atoms and molecules that constitute the material of cells are living structures; a high degree of organization is present in the living cells, which contribute to the formation of tissues, bones and organs - the next hierarchical level - until we come to the functioning whole, the body itself. Each unit - from the chemical atom, the cell, the organ, to the body - has its individual consciousness, while at the same time functioning within the consciousness of a larger unit within the hierarchical structure. Each unit is in communication with the rest of the system of which it is a part, transmitting and receiving messages in a manner which, in our own human activities, we would describe as intelligent.

The physical body, however, is only one aspect of the sevenfold man, whose inner aspects repeat the hierarchical pattern which, as described earlier, reflects the structure of the Cosmos. Each plane of the sevenfold universe is peopled by lives, as varied in the degree of consciousness they display and in the functions they fulfil in the cosmic scheme as are the hierarchies of lesser lives in the body of man.


The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform ... They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence ... [The Secret Doctrine-I, viii /I, xxi /I, 8].

The definition of the word hierarchy is curiously indicative of the occult teaching. The Oxford Dictionary gives the etymology of the word: from the Greek hieros, meaning sacred, and archein, to rule. It then defines hierarchy as "the collective body of angels, grouped in three divisions and nine orders of different power and glory". The definition then names each of the three divisions in each of the three groups according to the Christian classification, and adds, "classification in graded subdivisions, a body classified in successively subordinate grades, priestly government".

All these beings that together constitute the planes of Nature are themselves individually, and their hierarchies collectively, parts of the evolutionary process. Before the human stage is reached, they are irresponsible agents of the Law which operates throughout the universe. They are termed Elementals, and are associated with the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, as well as constituting three pre-mineral kingdoms. Beyond the human stage are hierarchies of a still higher Consciousness, a Logos, as a collective Being, is the Life of the whole grand scheme.

One of the aims that Mme Blavatsky set before herself in presenting The Secret Doctrine to the public was "to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the universe" [The Secret Doctrine-I, viii /I, xxi /I, 8]. What that place is becomes evident as we understand the evolution of consciousness through the hierarchical structure of the universe. For the man-stage is that stage in the total process in which spirit and matter are in equilibrium - a stage symbolized by the interlaced triangles of Solomon's Seal, the one representing matter, pointing downwards, the other representing spirit, pointing upwards, the direction of future progress. Man occupies a central position in the cosmic evolutionary scheme; as we shall see, he is the archetypal model for the whole process and in him the highest Spirit and lowest Matter are joined by mind. The man-stage and its relation to the pre- and post-human stages is clearly stated in a passage in The Secret Doctrine:


In sober truth ... every so-called "Spirit" is either a disembodied or a future man. As from the highest Archangel (Dhyan Chohan) down to the last conscious "Builder" (the inferior class of Spiritual Entities), all such are men, having lived aeons ago, in other Manvantaras, on this or other Spheres, so the inferior, semi-intelligent and non-intelligent Elementals are all future men. The fact alone, that a Spirit is endowed with intelligence, is a proof to the occultist that such a Being must have been a man, and acquired his knowledge and intelligence throughout the human cycle. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 277 /I, 297 /I, 320]

The three kingdoms of form preceding the human in the physical world are the mineral, plant and animal. Similarly, there are three groups of post-human entities, Dhyan Chohans, "Lords of Light", defined as "the divine Intelligences charged with the supervision of Kosmos" [The Theosophical Glossary -]. Mme Blavatsky points out that they correspond to Archangels recognized in the Roman Catholic system. Each of the three groups has its particular place in the hierarchical structure, and its particular function. Of the first group it is taught that


they build, or rather rebuild, every "system" after the "Night". The second group of the Builders is the Architect of our planetary chain exclusively; and the third, the progenitor of our humanity - the Macrocosmic prototype of the microcosm. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 128 /I, 153 /I, 186]

In the story of the formation and evolution of man as given in The Secret Doctrine, various terms are used for the categories of non-physical beings who take part in the process, some fulfilling a directive role while others carry out the orders of their superiors. This is not the place for going into further detail, but mention must be made of one particular group who have a distinctive role in relation to man. These are the Lipikas, the Recorders or Scribes, of whom it is said that they "impress on the (to us) invisible tablets of the Astral Light - the "great picture-gallery of eternity" - a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man, of all that was, is, or ever will be, in the phenomenal universe" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 104 /I, 130 /I, 165]. The tradition of "an angel writing in a book of gold" is no empty myth but the fragmentary recollection, in the framework of a particular religion, of the ancient knowledge.

There is another sense in which the word hierarchy is used in Occultism, apart from the beings of successive states of seniority in the scheme of things. In the formation of a Cosmos the First Beings to be emanated from the Logoic Unity are known as the Seven Supreme Lords. Each of these can be thought of as the head of a 'Ray' shining down through all the planes of being. Each Ray imparts the quality of its Lord to every thing and being on all the levels. All things share these qualities, or have them inherent in their natures, but not equally; one or more qualities predominate. These Rays are sometimes symbolized by colours: violet, yellow, green, blue, red, orange, white (the synthesis). All the beings along one predominant ray are sometimes referred to as a hierarchy. The Ray colours have many correspondences in the natures of the planet, the principles of man, the qualities of substances, sound, the parts of the body, man's senses and even states of consciousness.




Occult Science lays before the student certain facts of Nature which are unknown to the science of today. Until a person develops within himself the faculties necessary to corroborate the teaching, he may take these facts as hypotheses which, as he will see, may help to explain psychic and spiritualistic phenomena, extra-sensory perception and other aspects of the paranormal.

The facts under consideration in this chapter are, first, the existence of a primordial Root Substance, Akasha, that manifests after the long Night or Pralaya of the universe, and second, the gradations of this substance throughout the planes of Nature, causing our physical globe, for example, to be enveloped in the lower of these grades, termed in this literature the Astral Light. We shall now look more closely at these two, Akasha and the Astral Light.

The first fact affirmed in Esoteric Science is, as given in the First Fundamental Principle of The Secret Doctrine, the One Absolute Reality, the "Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Immutable PRINCIPLE", unmanifest, without attributes, beyond the power of the human mind to conceive or of human language to describe. Periodically, in accordance with universal law, the processes of manifestation begin again and a new universe, with all the beings that comprise it, emerges from the Nirvanic Pralaya for another period of activity. In the procession of cosmic Days and Nights, the time-scale is unimaginably long, but within each Manvantara or Day there are cycles within cycles, beginnings and endings, greater and lesser periods of growth and decay.

A statement in The Secret Doctrine anticipates the question: How can the Absolute be said to produce a universe, since this implies action and relationship, which cannot be attributed to the Absolute?


In Occult metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "ONES" - the One on the unreachable plane of Absoluteness and Infinity; and the second "One" on the plane of Emanations. The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is eternal, absolute and immutable; but the Second, being, so to speak, the reflection of the First One ... can do so. It emanates from itself ... the seven Rays or Dhyan Chohans; in other words, the Homogeneous becomes the Heterogeneous, the Protyle differentiates into the Elements ... [The Secret Doctrine-I, 130 /I, 154 /I, 188 ]

(Note: Protyle was a term coined by Sir William Crookes to designate the first homogeneous, primordial substance - The Secret Doctrine-I, 328 fn.)

The originating One is described as the Rootless Root of all existence. Once we pass in thought from the Absoluteness of that One, then, says The Secret Doctrine, "duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 15 /I, 43 /I, 80]. These two are not to be regarded "as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahman), which constitute the basis of conditioned being whether subjective or objective". Nature, therefore, is pervaded by duality: in the physical world of our experience it is recognized in the polarity of active power, energy or force on the one hand, and passive matter on the other; in the positive and negative in electricity; in male and female functions in the natural world around us, in the north and south poles of a magnet.

Akasha (or Akasa) is the Sanskrit term that designates the primordial Root Substance. It is defined as "the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space". Just as force or energy requires a substantial connection or vehicle for its expression, so spirit also, if it is not to remain an abstraction, requires a vehicle through which to manifest. In the literature of Occultism, that aspect of the Absolute that we have called Spirit or Primordial Consciousness is regarded as the first aspect and is variously termed: it has, as a third part of its trinitarian nature, the Divine Thought, Cosmic Ideation, Universal Mind. The second aspect, Matter, is Primordial Substance, Akasha. As there can be no manifestation of this root of consciousness without an appropriate vehicle, these two - whether we call them simply Spirit and Matter, or use the more expressive terms of Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance - are the "Alpha and Omega of Being ... the two facets of the One Absolute Existence" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 326 /I, 347 /II, 39].

We can now see that the seven planes which constitute the cosmos are in fact Akasha and six differentiations of it, and that this same Akasha, known to the ancient philosophers as Aether


not the modern Ether ... with all its mysterious and occult properties [contains] in itself the germs of universal creation. Upper Aether or Akasha is the celestial virgin and mother of every existing form and being, from whose bosom, as soon as "incubated" by the Divine Spirit, are called into existence Matter and Life, Force and Action ... Electricity, magnetism, heat, light and chemical action are so little understood even now that fresh facts are constantly widening the range of our knowledge. Who knows where ends the power of this protean giant - Aether; or whence its mysterious origin? Who, we mean, that denies the spirit that works in it, and evolves out of it all visible forms? [The Secret Doctrine-I, 332 /I, 354 /II, 45]

Each plane of Nature is Akasha in one of its seven states. Leaving aside the lowest of these, the earth itself, the next lowest is termed the Astral Light. This is defined as "the invisible region that surrounds our Globe, as it does every other ... a subtle Essence visible only to a clairvoyant eye". It has been described as the great picture-gallery of Nature, for on it is indelibly impressed every act and thought that occurs in the physical or psychic realms. As it interpenetrates the grosser forms of matter on our plane, it is perceptible to the clairvoyant whose sight is able to pass beyond the external opaque form. The psychometer also, sensitive to the Astral Light, is able to perceive the past events in which a particular object, a fragment of stone, a papyrus, has been involved. At the time when Mme Blavatsky was writing Isis Unveiled, psychometry was newly discovered, and it offered immediate evidence of the existence of the Astral Light.


One of the most interesting discoveries of modern times is that of the faculty which enables a certain class of sensitive persons to receive from any object held in the hand or against the forehead impressions of the character or appearance of the individual or any other object with which it has previously been in contact. Thus a manuscript, painting, article of clothing or jewelry - no matter how ancient - conveys to the sensitive a vivid picture of the writer, painter or wearer, even though he lived in the days of Ptolemy or Enoch. Nay, more: a fragment of an ancient building will recall its history and even the scenes which transpired within or about it. A bit of ore will carry the soul-vision back to the time when it was in process of formation. [ Isis Unveiled - I, 182 ]

This faculty, she added, "proves that every occurrence in nature - no matter how minute or unimportant - leaves its indelible impress upon physical nature; and, as there has been no appreciable molecular disturbance, the only inference possible is, that these images have been produced by that invisible, universal force - Ether, or astral light" [Isis Unveiled - I, 182]. She illustrated the subject by referring to a remarkable example of the exercise of the psychometric faculty given in a contemporary work, and then quotes from its author, Professor Denton - a geologist - a paragraph entirely descriptive of the Astral Light.


Not a leaf waves, not an insect crawls, not a ripple moves, but each motion is recorded by a thousand faithful scribes in infallible and indelible scripture. This is just as true of all past time. From the dawn of light upon this infant globe, when round its cradle the steamy curtains hung, to this moment, nature has been busy photographing everything. What a picture-gallery is hers! [ Isis Unveiled - I, 183 ]

In this manner does a physical scientist express the conclusions of his researches - conclusions which do but echo the affirmations of Esoteric Science.


It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think and every act we perform: and that future events - effects of long-forgotten causes - are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and prophet to follow. Memory - the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science - is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals - to look with inner sight into the astral light and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Instead of searching the cerebral ganglia for "micrographs of the living and the dead, of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have borne a part", they went to the vast repository where the records of every man's life as well as every pulsation of the visible cosmos are stored up for all Eternity! [ Isis Unveiled - I, 178 ]

In the above paragraph Mme Blavatsky quotes a sentence from a work by a contemporary scientist for whose writings she had a high regards; this was Dr Draper, a chemist with a special interest in photography and a pioneer in that field. She saw a parallel between the invisible record made by the camera - invisible, that is, until chemical processes bring out the hidden pictures - and the record made on the "tablets of the astral light", perceptible to those in whom appropriate faculties are developed. A little later she gives another passage from the same source:


A shadow never falls upon a wall without leaving thereupon a permanent trace, a trace which might be made visible by resorting to proper processes ... The portraits of our friends, or landscape views, may be hidden on the sensitive surface from the eye, but they are ready to make their appearance as soon as proper developers are resorted to. A spectre is concealed on a silver or glassy surface, until by our necromancy we make it come forth into the visible world. Upon the walls of our most private apartments, where we think the eye of intrusion is altogether shut out, and our retirement can never be profaned, there exist the vestiges of all our acts, silhouettes of whatever we have done." [ Isis Unveiled - I, 186]

More than one hundred and fifty years earlier, Sir Isaac Newton had advanced a theory of attraction based on his recognition of "the great universal, magnetic agent" which Esoteric Science terms the Astral Light. The identity of the two is shown by Newton's description of his "divine sensorium":


"Here the question is of a very subtile spirit which penetrates through all, even the hardest bodies, and which is concealed in their substance. Through the strength and activity of this spirit bodies attract each other and adhere together when brought into contact. Through it electrical bodies operate at the remotest distance, as well as near at hand, attracting and repelling; through this spirit the light also flows, and is refracted and reflected, and warms bodies. All senses are excited by this spirit, and through it the animals move their limbs. But these things cannot be explained in few words, and we have not yet sufficient experience to determine fully the laws by which this universal spirit operates." [ Isis Unveiled - I, 177]

Later in this study we shall see how the recognition of the Astral Light assists our understanding of psychic phenomena, including those of the seance room with its apports, materializations and medium-transmitted information and messages.



The subject matter of this chapter relates both to Akasha and to the Hierarchies of Chapter 4. The Elements of the occult system are differentiations of the One Element, Akasha; they must not be confused with the elements of chemistry, although these are derived from the occult Elements. Elementals are defined as "the Spirits of the Elements".

An informative passage in The Secret Doctrine sets out the basic facts:


For clearer understanding on the part of the general reader, it must be stated that Occult Science recognizes Seven Cosmical Elements - four entirely physical, and the fifth (Ether) semi-material, as it will become visible in the air towards the end of our Fourth Round, to reign supreme over the others during the whole of the Fifth. The remaining two are as yet absolutely beyond the range of human perception. These latter will, however, appear as presentments during the 6th and 7th Races of this Round, and will become known in the 6th and 7th Rounds respectively. These seven elements with their numberless Sub-Elements (far more numerous than those known to Science) are simply conditional modifications and aspects of the ONE and only Element. This latter is not Ether, not even Akasha, but the Source of these. The Fifth Element, now advocated quite freely by Science, is not the Ether hypothesized by Sir Isaac Newton - although he calls it by that name, having associated it in his mind probably with the Aether, "Father-Mother" of antiquity." [The Secret Doctrine -I, 12 /I, 40 /I, 78]

(Note: the term Round is used to denote a vast evolutionary cycle. This, and the meaning of Race in the literature, are more fully discussed in Chapter 12.)

To summarize the significance of this abstruse teaching, it may be said that it shows how the properties of substance and life, or matter and form, inherent in the primordial fabric of the universe, are reflected in every level of manifestation where, in their consequent modifications, they are experienced by our senses.

Elementals are centres of living energy, the "souls" or "Spirits" of the Elements. The term is applied particularly to these entities - for such they are - as they occur in the three kingdoms that precede the mineral in our physical world.


According to the ancient doctrines, every member of this varied ethereal population, from the highest "Gods" down to the soulless Elementals, was evolved by the ceaseless motion inherent in the astral light. Light is force, and the latter is produced by the will. As this will proceeds from an intelligence which cannot err, for it is absolute and immutable and has nothing of the materials of human thought in it, being superfine pure emanation of the ONE LIFE itself, it proceeds from the beginning of time, according to immutable laws, to evolve the elementary fabric requisite for subsequent generations of what we term human races.


These evolutions were from the world of Spirit into the world of gross Matter: and through that back again to the source of all things ... In this complete chain of unfoldings the elementary, spiritual beings had as distinct a place, midway between the extremes of Spirit and dense Matter as Mr. Darwin's missing link between the ape and man. [Isis Unveiled - I, 285]

In Zanoni, one of Bulwer Lytton's characters puts forward the teaching of the all but infinite number of invisible inhabitants of the world:


... if even man himself is a world to other lives, and millions and myriads dwell in the rivers of his blood, and inhabit man's frame as man inhabits earth, common sense ... would suffice to teach that the circumfluent infinite which you call space - the boundless Impalpable which divides earth from the moon and stars - is filled also with its correspondent and appropriate life ... no mechanical tube is yet invented to discover the nobler and more gifted things that hover in the illimitable air. Yet between these last and man is a mysterious and terrible affinity ...


Now, in space there are millions of beings, not literally spiritual, for they have all, like the animalculae unseen by the naked eye, certain forms of matter, though matter so delicate, air-drawn, and subtile, that it is, as it were, but a film, a gossamer that clothes the spirit ... Yet, in truth, these races differ more widely ... some of surpassing wisdom, some of horrible malignity; some hostile as fiends to men, others gentle as messengers between earth and heaven. [ Isis Unveiled - I, 286]

In an article in Mme Blavatsky's magazine Lucifer there is the following passage:


The essential difference between the body of an embryo and an Elemental proper is that the embryo - the future man - contains in himself a portion of each of the four great kingdoms, to wit: fire, air, earth and water; while the Elemental has but a portion of one of such kingdoms ... Elementals of the fire are not found in water, nor those of air in the fire Kingdom. And yet, in as much as a portion of water is found not only in man but also in other bodies, Elementals exist really in and among each other in every substance just as the spiritual world exists and is in the material. But the last are the Elementals in their most primordial and latent state ... Another class are those elemental beings which will never evolve into human beings in the present Manvantara, but occupy, as it were, a specific step of the ladder of being, and, by comparison with the others, may properly be called nature-spirits, or cosmic agents of nature, each being confined to its own element and never transgressing the bounds of others ... [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -VI, 197]

At this point it becomes necessary to introduce another term, tattva, without which some important aspects of the occult system cannot be explained. The subject is an abstruse one, but an attempt to grasp its essential principle will facilitate later study. The Sanskrit word tattva has no exact equivalent in English; it is defined as "thatness", truth, reality, the essential nature of things. A further explanation states that the tattvas are "the substratum of the seven forces of Nature", as also "the substance out of which the universe is formed" and "the power by which it is sustained". They are both Force and Matter, for "the degree of the solidity of matter and the degrees of the power that ensouls it must go hand in hand". Again, "they are both Substance and Force, or atomic Matter and the Spirit that ensoul it" [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 492 /V, 469 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 605 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 391]. In Sanskrit works, the word for "primordial and elemental" Matter is Prakriti, and as this is sevenfold, the tattvas also - "the principles of the Universe and also of man" - must be seven in number [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 492 /V, 469 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 605 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 391].

Throughout the study of the occult system, it will be observed that Nature is septenary in all her aspects. There are seven planes in Cosmos, seven principles in man, seven senses (two as yet latent), the septenary scale in music, the septenary spectrum in colours. What follows from this is that there are correspondences between the members of every septenate. Did Baudelaire know this when he wrote: "les formes, les couleurs et les sons se repondent", a reverberation, so to speak, by which all the phenomena of Nature are linked and kin? Under the heading "The Tattvic Correlations and Meaning" we read:


In Nature, then, we find seven Forces, or seven Centres of Force, and everything seems to respond to that number, as for instance the septenary scale in music, or Sounds, and the septenary spectrum in Colours. [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 479 /V, 474 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 610 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 395]

In humanity at present only five senses are developed, and consequently we cannot be aware of more than the five lower tattvas. The reader is informed that "the doctrine of the seven Tattvas (the principles of the universe and also of man) was held in great sacredness and therefore secrecy, in days of old, by the Brahmans ..." [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 492 /V, 469 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 605 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 391 ], but as our humanity has reached only the Fifth Race, and as two of his seven senses remain latent, the Hindu systems give only five Tattvas.

The five physical senses are made to correspond with the five lower Tattvas; the two yet undeveloped senses in man, and the two forces, or Tattvas, forgotten by Brahmans and still unrecognized by Science, being so subjective and the highest of them so sacred, that they can only be recognized by, and known through, the highest Occult Science. It is easy to see that these two Tattvas and the two senses (the sixth and the seventh) correspond to the two highest human principles, Buddhi and the Auric Envelope, impregnated with the light of Atma. Unless we open in ourselves, by Occult training, the sixth and seventh senses, we can never comprehend correctly their corresponding types. [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 479 /V, 474 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 610 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 395 ]

There follows a list of the seven Tattvas with brief explanatory notes, and the further comment that "all these correspond to our Principles, and to the seven senses and forces in man" [ --- The Secret Doctrine-III, 498 /V, 476 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 612 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 396], followed by a table of correspondences [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 501 /V, 478 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 614 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 398].

The Secret Doctrine introduces the Occult Tibetan term that designates "the ever-present electrical energy and ceaseless destructive and formative power" in the universe; this is Fohat, "the universal propelling Vital Force, at once the propeller and the resultant" [The Theosophical Glossary -]. In the symbolism of the Stanzas on which The Secret Doctrine is based, Fohat - "the constructive force of Cosmic Electricity" - is made to appear as an Entity, a Being with whom are associated seven sons who are his brothers. In the passage that follows (the quotation is extensive, because of the light it throws on the nature of the Elementals), the term Maya should be noted. Although usually translated as "illusion", it is more correctly understood as


the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence and the perceptions thereof possible. In Hindu philosophy that alone which is changeless and eternal is called reality; all that which is subject to change through decay and differentiation and which has therefore a beginning and an end if regarded as maya - illusion. [The Theosophical Glossary -]

The commentary on the operations of Fohat and his "son-brothers" continues:


The Seven "son-brothers", however, represent and personify the seven forms of Cosmic magnetism called in practical Occultism the "Seven Radicals", whose co-operative and active progeny are, among other energies, Electricity, Magnetism, Sound, Light, Heat, Cohesion, etc. Occult Science defines all these as super-sensuous effects in their hidden behaviour, and as objective phenomena in the world of senses; the former requiring abnormal faculties to perceive them; the latter, our ordinary physical senses. They all pertain to, and are the emanations of, still more super-sensuous spiritual qualities, not personated by, but belonging to, real and conscious CAUSES. To attempt description of such ENTITIES would be worse than useless. The reader must bear in mind that, according to our teaching, which regards this phenomenal Universe as a great Illusion, the nearer a body is to the UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE, the more it approaches reality, as being removed the farther from this world of Maya. Therefore, though the molecular constitution of their bodies is not deducible from their manifestations on this plane of consciousness, they nevertheless (from the standpoint of the adept-Occultist) possess a distinctive objective if not material structure, in the relatively noumenal - as opposed to the phenomenal - Universe. Men of science may term them Force or Forces generated by matter, or "modes" of its motion", if they will; Occultism sees in these effects "Elementals" (forces), and, in the direct causes producing them, intelligent DIVINE Workmen. The intimate connection of these Elementals (guided by the unerring hand of the Rulers) - their correlation we might call it - with the elements of pure Matter, results in our terrestrial phenomena, such as light, heat, magnetism, etc., etc. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 145 /I, 169 /I, 201]

Further in the commentary Mme Blavatsky explains that "all the so-called Forces of Nature, Electricity, Magnetism, Light, Heat, etc. ... in their ultimate constitution", are not "modes of motions of material particles" but the differentiated aspects of the One Universal Motion - just as, for example, the colours of the spectrum are made to appear when the white light, which contains them all, is passed through a prism. The commentary thus gives a grand comprehensive picture of the internal processes of Cosmos. All the differentiations in Nature, whether of energy or of substance, are living, for they are differentiations of the One Life manifesting as the manifold lives with their variety of properties and powers according to their stage of evolutionary development. The lower ones are Elementals, the higher ones the Rulers, each class with intelligence according to its degree, and each having its vehicle, its base or means of expression, which is itself a manifestation of life.

Little information is given about the three Elemental kingdoms that precede the Mineral. However, some interesting facts about Elementals were given by Mme Blavatsky at different times in conversations with W.Q. Judge, a founding member of The Theosophical Society. These conversations were originally published in The Path, a magazine started by Judge in 1886. On one occasion she told him that she would cause a particular Elemental to produce a bell sound according to her precise instructions, and this it accordingly did some days later. Speaking about this Elemental when they met, Mme Blavatsky gave Judge some further information:


This one has no form in particular but is more like a revolving mass of air. But it is, all the same, quite definite, as you know from what he has done. There are some classes with forms of their own. The general division into fiery, airy, earthy and watery is pretty correct but it will not cover all the classes. There is not a single thing going on about us, no matter what, that elementals are not concerned in, because they constitute a necessary part of nature, just as important as the nerve currents in your body. Why, in storms you should see them, how they move about. Don't you remember what you told me about that lady *** who saw them change and move about at that opera? It was due to her tendencies and the general idea underlying the opera." (It was the opera of Tristan and Isolde by Wagner. - J.) "In that case, as Isolde is Irish, the whole idea under it aroused a class of elementals peculiar to that island and its traditions. That's a queer place, Judge, that Ireland. It is packed full of a singular class of elementals; and, by Jove! I see they even have emigrated in quite large numbers. Sometimes one quite by accident rouses up some ancient system, say from Egypt; that is the explanation of that singular astral noise which you said reminded you of a sistrum being shaken; it was really objective. But, my dear fellow, do you think I will give you a patent elemental extractor? - not yet. [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -X, 271/2]

Although this was spoken in light vein, the information given is valid; first, that elementals are everywhere - behind the scenes, so to speak; secondly, that they directly affect what goes on in the world; and thirdly, that they are subject to the will of one who has the necessary knowledge and power. In earlier issues of The Path, other such conversations are recorded in the form of a dialogue between a Student and a Sage. Here we find a good deal more information about Elementals - too much to reproduce here, but a few extracts are given to show some of the detailed ramifications of the subject:


Every person has about him a fluid, or plane, or sphere, or energy, whichever you please to call it, in which are constantly found elementals that partake of his nature. That is, they are tinted with his colour and impressed by his character. There are numerous classes of these. Some men have many of one class or of all, or many of some and few of others. And anything worn upon your person is connected with your elementals. [ The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -IX, 124]


As to the moral character of elementals, they have none: they are colourless in themselves - except some classes - and merely assume the tint, so to speak, of the person using them. [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -IX, 113]

In answer to the question, Are elementals beings?, the Sage gave this reply:


It is not easy to convey to you an idea of the constitution of elementals; strictly speaking, they are not, because the word elementals has been used in reference to a class of them that have no being such as mortals have. It would be better to adopt the terms used in Indian books ... Many things well known about them cannot be put into ordinary language.


Student: Do you refer to their being able to act in the fourth dimension of space?


Sage: Yes, in a measure. Take the tying in a endless cord of many knots, - a thing often done at spiritist seances. That is possible to him who knows more dimensions of space than three. No three-dimensional being can do this; and as you understand "matter", it is impossible for you to conceive how such a knot can be tied or how a solid ring can be passed through the matter of another solid one. These things can be done by elementals. [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -IX, 109]

It is pertinent to refer here to some comments made in The Secret Doctrine on the subject of the dimensions of space:


... it is worthwhile to point out the real significance of the sound but incomplete intuition that has prompted ... the use of the modern expression, "the fourth dimension of Space". To begin with, of course, the superficial absurdity of assuming that Space itself is measurable in any direction is of little consequence. The familiar phrase can only be an abbreviation of the fuller form - the "Fourth dimension of MATTER in Space". But it is an unhappy phrase even thus expanded, because while it is perfectly true that the progress of evolution may be destined to introduce us to new characteristics of matter, those with which we are already familiar are really more numerous than the three dimensions ... Meanwhile, the expression is far more incorrect than even the familiar one of the "Sun rising or setting. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 251 /I, 271 /I, 295]

Turning again to the conversation between Student and Sage, the former asks whether the elementals are not all of one class. The Sage replies:


No. There are different classes for each plane, and division of plane, of nature. Many can never be recognized by men. And those pertaining to our plane do not act in another. You must remember, too, that these "planes" of which we are speaking interpenetrate each other. [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -IX, 110]

The "Conversations on Occultism" recorded by Judge run to some fifty pages in Volume IX of the Collected Writings, with important information - and warnings - about its relevance to the question of spiritualistic phenomena. In introducing the subject, the Student himself makes a summary of the facts:


an elemental is a centre of force, without intelligence, without moral character or tendencies, but capable of being directed in its movements by human thoughts, which may, consciously or not, give it any form, and to a certain extent intelligence; in its simplest form it is visible as a disturbance in a transparent medium, such as would be produced by "a glass fish, so transparent as to be invisible, swimming through the air of the room", and leaving behind him a shimmer, such as hot air makes when rising from a stove. [The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -IX, 104]

The term Elementaries is also introduced into the conversation. Here a brief explanatory note will be sufficient to avoid the confusion that arises because of the similarity of the words. Elementaries - defined here as shells, or "half dead human beings" - are the vivified remains of deceased persons, galvanized into a semblance of life by the presence of a medium. The Elementals that enter into them enable the shells to produce the phenomena of the seance room. The subject will be mentioned again in Chapter 12.



In recent years the word Karma has passed into our language, with the general connotation that whatever happens in life is the consequence of some previous action, event or circumstance. This meaning is correct, but the teaching of Esoteric Science shows how far the operation of Karma exceeds the simplistic picture of rewards and punishments affecting human lives.

Karma is Law. The Key to Theosophy gives a short but comprehensive definition of the term:


We consider it as the Ultimate Law of the universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable. [The key to theosophy - XI, 201]

Law, as used in this statement, means in effect the way things are in Nature, and the way they behave, phrases which gives recognition to the many aspects of Karma expressed in such descriptive definitions as: the law of alternation, the law of causation, the law of balance and harmony, the law of evolution, the law of innate intelligence. Students of the cosmic process have also chosen to describe the varied operations of Karma in other terms, such as: the law of coming into being, the law of motion, the law of orderly change, the law of essential unity, and so on. Let us look at some of these descriptions.

The Law of Essential Unity.

In answer to a question about the nature of "God, the Soul and Man", Mme Blavatsky states that "in their origin and in eternity the three, like the universe and all therein, are one with the absolute Unity". When, according to the law inherent within itself, the Unity must again put forth a universe, a polarity can be said to arise within it, expressed as Spirit and Matter: the former is the active, positive, energetic aspect, described as male, while the latter is the passive, receptive, substantial aspect, described as female. However, the two are in no sense separate; neither can be said to have any existence without the other, for they are but aspects of the One Life.

The Law of Alternation or Periodicity.

This is the second of three Fundamental Propositions that are at the root of the esoteric philosophy. After the statement of the Law as the causative principle behind the manifestation of a universe, The Secret Doctrine gives a few examples to illustrate its operation on the scale of human experience.


An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the Universe. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 17 /I, 45 /I, 82]

The principle operates throughout Nature, whether the scale be that of man and his twenty-four hour cycle or of a universe and its periods of scarcely imaginable duration. Nothing therefore can be considered in isolation from what went before or from what followed after, either in the days of a man's life or in the life of a universe.


Our "Universe" is only one of an infinite number of Universes, all of them "Sons of Necessity", because links in the great Cosmic chain of Universes, each one standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 43 /I, 74 /I, 115]

The emergence of a material universe is therefore not a creation, in the usual sense of making a new thing ex nihilo, but is rather


the periodical and consecutive appearances of the universe from the subjective on to the objective plane of being, at regular intervals of time, covering periods of immense duration. [The key to theosophy - VI, 83]

The process may be seen as analogous, on a cosmic scale, to the resumption of a man's activities after a night of sleep for the purpose of furthering the "unfinished business" of the previous day.

The Law of Harmony and Balance.

The very word Cosmos, from the Greek kosmos, meaning order, is applied to the universe - according to the Greek Lexicon - because of its "perfect arrangement". Karma, explains The Key to Theosophy, is the "Law of readjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world" [The key to theosophy - XI, 205]. It is this aspect of Karma that is often emphasized in popular presentations of the teaching, both because it is easier to grasp and because of its obvious relevance to human life. In this form it has been taught in the world's Scriptures, as for example in the Dhammapada: "if a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage", and in the saying of Jesus, "With the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again". The analogy with sowing and reaping used by St Paul: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" ( 7), is shown in the Buddhist teaching to apply to the sequence of lives in the doctrine of rebirth: "Like everything else in nature, the life of man is subject to the law of cause and effect. The present reaps what the past has sown, and the future is the product of the present".

The Law of Retribution.

When the emphasis is put on painful experiences as the consequences of evil acts in the past, Karma is appropriately described as the Law of Retribution, but it is also the Law of compensation and reward. This aspect of karmic law should not, however, obscure either the fact that the same law governs the entire universe in all its parts, from atom and microbe to man and planetary system, or the fact that man himself is a responsible agent of that law. This introduces the question of free-will; by choosing the seed he will plant, the farmer chooses the crop he will harvest; similarly, by choosing how he will act today, a man chooses his own future, for better or worse. The answer has been well summarized in the lines:

             Destiny today is master,

             Man was master yesterday.

Karma is the Law of Evolution.

In summarizing the essential teachings of Esoteric Science in The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky indicates the vast sweep of karmic operations in Nature.


The whole order of nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations is a proof of this. The immutable laws that weed out the weak and feeble species, to make room for the strong, and which ensure the "survival of the fittest", though so cruel in their immediate action - all are working toward the grand end. The very fact that adaptations do occur, that the fittest do survive in the struggle for existence, shows that what is called "unconscious Nature" is in reality an aggregate of forces manipulated by semi-intelligent beings (Elementals) guided by High Planetary Spirits (Dhyan Chohans), whose collective aggregate forms the manifested verbum of the unmanifested LOGOS, and constitutes at one and the same time the MIND of the Universe and its immutable LAW. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 277 /I, 298 /I, 320]

The Law of Innate Intelligence.

The Passage just quoted draws attention to another aspect of the cosmic process, that of universal Intelligence. When the Wisdom of Solomon declares that "Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth she order all things", and again, "being but one, she can do all things", the writer of this apocryphal text does but echo the occult philosophy in recognizing an intelligent principle at every level and in every operation of Nature. In the language of human experience, it could be said that every organism in Nature knows what it has to do and carries out its appointed task. Stars keep to their orbits, atoms combine with some other atoms but not with all, plants select their needed nutrients from the soil, birds and animals mate and rear their young and migrate according to clearly determined patterns. What is instinct but a term to conceal our ignorance of the causative factors in animal behaviour? The Hierarchies (see Chapter 4) further illustrate the presence of an Intelligent Principle in Nature, for each one not only acts out its unique role in the grand scheme but also maintains its appropriate relationship with the Hierarchies above and below itself.

A useful collection of Aphorisms on Karma was given by W.Q. Judge in his magazine The Path. The following selection show the universal and unerring nature of Karmic law and its relevance in human life:


Karma operates on all things and beings from the minutest conceivable being up to Brahma. Proceeding in the three worlds of men, gods and the elemental beings, no spot in the manifested universe is exempt from its sway.


The Karma of this earth is the combination of all the acts and thoughts of all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceding Manvantara or evolutionary scheme from which ours flows. In the life of worlds, races, nations and individuals, Karma cannot act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its action, and until such appropriate instrument is found, that Karma related to it remains unexpended.


Karma is both merciful and just. Mercy and Justice are only opposite poles of a single whole; and Mercy without Justice is not possible in the operations of Karma. That which man calls Mercy and Justice is defective, errant and impure.


Its action may be known by calculation from cause to effect; and this calculation is possible because effect is wrapped up in and is not succedent to the cause. [Echoes of the Orient I, 313/5]

There is no finer statement of the Law in the vast sweep of its operations than the memorable verses from Sir Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia; they speak of the universality of karmic law, which governs the movement of the stars, the wonders of the natural world and the circumstances of human life; they speak too of the power that each man has over his own destiny and of the observance of the law as the key to freedom. The verses that follow are selected from the last Book of the poem:


It knows no wrath nor pardon; utter-true

Its measures mete, its faultless balance weighs;

Times are as nought, to-morrow it will judge,

Or after many days.


By this the slayer's knife did stab himself;

The unjust judge hath lost his own defender;

The false tongue dooms its lie; the creeping thief

And spoiler rob, to render.


Such is the Law which moves to righteousness,

Which none at last can turn aside or stay;

The heart of it is Love, the end of it

Is Peace and Consummation sweet. Obey!




Esoteric Science shows the Cosmos to be one functioning whole, governed by inherent Law, one aspect of which is expressed in the alternation of periods of activity with periods of rest. This alternation permeates the whole of the manifested universe, manifestation itself being subject to it. All things, on whatever scale of being, visible and invisible, subjective and objective, reflect the universal process, having their days and nights, their coming and going. Only THAT, the ONE ABSOLUTE PRINCIPLE, without beginning or end or change, endures for ever.

As above, so below. As an objective universe comes and goes, so does objective man, that is, man as we know him in experience, living in a physical body and manifesting all the attributes of personality. An understanding of the occult constitution of man as described in Chapter 3 is a necessary preparation for the study of the after-death states. Let us recapitulate briefly: man as a unit of consciousness functions through seven principles. These principles may be grouped in various ways. For the understanding of the death and rebirth processes, they may be conveniently grouped as follows:

I The Upper Triad. Following the system of numbering given in The Mahatma Letters, these are: Atma, Universal Spirit (7); Buddhi, the vehicle of Spirit (6); Manas, or Mind in its higher aspect (5). Neither Atma nor Buddhi is an individual human principle. They are universal and only relate to man when in conjunction with his manasic principle. This Upper Triad is often referred to as the Ego or Individuality, and is immortal.

II The Middle Duad. During incarnation, Manas may be said to project a portion of itself into the lower planes of being, where it becomes associated with Kama (4), the principle of desire or emotion, thus forming a Kama-Manasic duality, referred to as the psyche and the mortal soul.

III The Lower Triad. This comprises the life principle, Prana (3); its vehicle, the Linga Sharira (2) or Astral Body; and the Sthula Sharira (1) or physical body. This Lower Triad, together with the Middle Duad, form the Personality. The Lower Triad is subject to birth and death as we know it and the Middle Duad after death to disintegration, hence the mortality of the psyche.

Antahkarana, defined as "the bridge between lower and higher Manas", becomes, when developed, the means of communication between the two. The two highest principles, Atma (7) and Buddhi (6), are sometimes referred to as the Upper Duad, or, since they really comprise a single Unit, as the Monad. The combination of Monad with Manas is the Immortal Man. Although we go through life identified, for the most part, with the evanescent Personality, the Esoteric Science insists that the real Self in us is an enduring manifestation of an inner Divine Essence, the Universal and ONE SELF.

Here it is important to distinguish between the subjective and objective states of consciousness. The normal experience of things, people and events in the environment - the common experience of life in the physical world - is objective; ordinary reality shared with others. Our reactions to those same things, people and events are subjective, constituting the private world of each individual, one into which no one else can enter. The distinction is an important one in the study of the after-death states of consciousness.

The account of the processes of death and the post-mortem states is derived largely from the teaching given by the Mahatmas in their correspondence with Mr A.P. Sinnett. Some of it is reiterated in The Key to Theosophy, in which Mme Blavatsky summarizes and explains what she had received on the subject from the same Adept Teachers. Nowhere else is such detailed teaching to be found; it is unique both for the information it gives about the process of dying and what happens thereafter. It also shows how the understanding of all that death involves depends on a proper understanding of the constitution of man and the total cosmic life process which it reflects.

In general terms, the conditions in and experiences of the post-mortem states are intimately related to the life just lived, as has always been taught in exoteric religion. Some of the factors that will determine what happens include the way in which the previous life was lived, the aims and motives and the dominant interests of the individual, the way in which he used his talents and opportunities, how he faced the difficulties he encountered, his relationship with his fellow men, and such obvious factors as the length of his life and the manner of his dying.

According to the account given by the Mahatmas, the death of the physical body is only the beginning of a long and complicated process, for, since man is a complex being, the withdrawal of life from his other vestures or principles must also be complex.

In the last moments of his life, before the brain ceases to function, the dying person reviews in detail the life just ending. Every incident is dislodged, as it were, from the dying brain, and each is seen in its proper perspective. According to the kind of person he has been, the dying man will pay more attention to some memories than to others. This is the moment of truth when he sees himself as he really was, not as he had habitually tried to imagine himself to be. His last thoughts, as he sees his own past passing before him, will cast their influence on to the next personality which he will assume when the time comes for his return, and because of its crucial importance for his future, the very private concentration of this period should not be disturbed.

With the ending of this review and the consequent striking of the keynote for the next incarnation, unconsciousness supervenes. Whatever the manner of death, consciousness goes out "like a snuffed candle flame". Life gradually withdraws from the lower vehicles, firstly from those of the lower triad and then much more slowly from the middle duad. As life departs from them, the vehicles sooner or later disintegrate and their constituents return to the general pool of living stuff to be reused.

The testimony of people who have been pronounced clinically dead but who subsequently recovered and related their experiences (as for example in Dr Moody's Life after Life) provides evidence that before, during or after the review, the individual may become conscious of an impressive, intimate and powerful Presence. It may be experienced simply as light, or a holy light, or a luminous being, sometimes likened to Christ or the Deity. In theosophical terms, this might be an awareness of the Divine Spiritual Ego shining into consciousness in this last extremity. The review itself is frequently reported among the recorded cases. Another common experience is that of being aware of a barrier that prevents further advance; some felt they were in a tunnel or a dark valley that had to be traversed in order to reach the light beyond. Perhaps reaching the light would have been the moment of death, which in these cases was not reached.

The next phase, after the loss of consciousness that follows the review, is described in The Mahatma Letters as a "death" struggle - an unfortunate term, perhaps, since it seems to connote an acutely painful and conscious experience: the struggle, as appears from the later information, is rather an automatic separation of the Egoic from the personal elements in the man's nature. As was shown earlier in this chapter, the Manasic or Fifth principle is dual in incarnation, partly, its higher aspects, remaining associated with the Monad and partly, its lower aspects, becoming attached to Kama, the Fourth or desire principle. These two modes of functioning of the one Manasic principle explain the terms "upper" and "lower" Manas. In association with the Monad the higher Manas forms thus the Upper Duad, while in association with Kama the lower Manas forms the Lower Duad. The struggle is between these two.

When man dies, his second and third principles die with him; the lower triad disappears, and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh principles form the surviving Quaternary ... Thenceforth it is a "death" struggle between the Upper and Lower dualities. If the upper wins, the sixth, having attracted to itself the quintessence of Good from the fifth - its nobler affections, its saintly (though they be earthly) aspirations, and the most Spiritualised portions of its mind - follows its divine elder (the 7th) into the "Gestation" State; and the fifth and fourth remain in association as an empty shell ... [The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -16, 101:103]

Where there are no unusual circumstances the Gestation State continues until - many years later (in terms of earth time) - consciousness returns. Then follows a second review of the life just past, succeeded by a gradual emergence into a state of blissful happiness, with an awareness of familiar surroundings and of dear relatives and friends. These experiences, however, are entirely subjective, like a vivid dream, but they have at least as much reality as those of what we call real life. This state, which for the dreamer is reality, is known as Devachan.

Devachan, a Sanskrit word meaning "the dwelling of the gods", is defined in the Theosophical Glossary as


a state intermediate between two earth-lives, into which the Ego (Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the Trinity made One) enters, after its separation from Kama Rupa and the disintegration of the lower principles on earth.

The nature of Devachan as a state, not a place, is underlined in another definition where it is described as


a condition, a state of mental bliss. Philosophically a mental condition analogous to, but far more vivid and real than, the most vivid dream. It is the state after death of most mortals. [The key to theosophy - VI, 100]

While in that condition, the entity is referred to as a Devachanee. He has about him all those he loved during life, in idealized surroundings; furthermore, he experiences the fulfilment of cherished dreams and worthy ambitions, everything that was most noble in his earthly aspirations. The state is an entirely spiritual one, devoid of any baser elements; it is a state of bliss, rest and recuperation, and of recompense for suffering. Being subjective, however, it is a private world that cannot be shared with anyone else, similar in this respect also to the private world of dreams: in short, in spite of its vivid actuality, it is a state of self-created illusion. Our friends there, and our environment, are not objective reality.

The question of a return to the world that the Ego has left is categorical: the vehicles necessary for existence in the lower planes have disintegrated, and consequently no return is possible. The Devachanee in his private world can have no knowledge of what is happening in the world he has left. At the Egoic level he may on occasions communicate with other Egos, including those who are still living in the physical world. But the ability of those still on earth to be aware of such communication in their waking consciousness will depend on their development and sensitivity; where the conditions allow, their consciousness may, according to Mme Blavatsky, be so impressed as to give them a sense of having been in touch with a departed one and to be comforted thereby.

Like all other states and processes, this phase of the after-death experience eventually comes to an end. As it began gradually, so it ends gradually, and once more unconsciousness supervenes, but in the normal case only after a period corresponding to many years of earth life. Then the time comes for a new incarnation, the lowest inner principles are re-formed, partly from material discarded from the old ones. When the new birth is imminent the Ego has a pre-vision of the main bent of the life to come and of what it should accomplish. Unconsciousness then returns until infant eyes look out again upon earth.

The circumstances of the child's birth, the environment of time and place, of family and circumstances, the tendencies that accompany the return and the likely events to be encountered, all this is determined by Karma. They are the accumulated balance not only of the preceding incarnation but of all previous lives.

Where an incarnation is cut short prematurely, as by illness, accident, war or suicide, the normal cycle of experiences between death and rebirth will undergo corresponding variations. For example, in the case of death in early childhood, those phases described as the review, the struggle and the gestation period will be short, since there will be little experience to be assimilated. It may happen, when death occurs in infancy, that the child's inner principles do not disperse but return to the new body. This is reincarnation in the very literal sense. A young person meeting sudden death - a soldier, for example - may not even realize for a time that he is dead, until the time for the disintegration of the principles, normally a gradual process, arrives. Then he will become unconscious, and the normal death processes will start. Meanwhile, so long as some degree of consciousness survives in the lower principles, as is usually the case, and until the departure of the Ego into Devachan, some real communication may take place, but only through a medium. Once the normal processes of death begin to take their course, and the Ego departs, there is no such possibility; thereafter only the shell, the abandoned middle duad, can be contacted.

Suicide presents a different picture. Unlike the soldier, the suicide is deliberately responsible for his own death. It is said that he retains a degree of consciousness. He may suffer remorse, remaining in an unhappy state until such time as his life would have ended normally, but his mental state will depend upon his motive for ending his life on earth. Suffering will also be the lot of those who die with some still ruling abnormally strong passion, such as uncontrolled desire for the physical satisfactions of food, drink, sex or material possessions, or a compelling ambition still unsatisfied. Apart from the suffering that an individual brings upon himself by his attachment to gross physical satisfactions, there is no experience corresponding to the traditional hell. Nor is there any post-mortem punishment for evil conduct while in the body, for Karma redresses the balance on this earth for the wrong-doing that took place here; what is sown in the physical world must be reaped in the physical world, for the Law is perfectly just.

Some further information, including the more technical aspects of the subject, will be presented in Book II. In the Esoteric Science, death is seen to be a release from the cares and sufferings of earth life, and an end too to its joys which are inevitably temporary. When the time comes, it is welcomed by many people for it is the long sleep "that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, the balm of hurt minds, Great Nature's second course" that prepares us for another day of life on earth.




In the preceding chapters, a vast scheme of existence has been outlined. Infinite in its diversity, it is nonetheless a Unity, experienced by human consciousness as both objective and subjective, as visible and invisible, as phenomenal and noumenal. The seven planes of the manifested universe are formed of hierarchies of lives in gradations ranging from the unimaginably minute to hosts of incalculable magnitude, the whole being subject to inherent, unerring and invariable laws. The very words and phrases used in the literature of Esoteric Science , if their significance be examined in depth, convey something of the grandeur and complexity of the cosmic process, viz.: primeval origins; manifestation; undifferentiated primordial substance; the majestic sequence of processes according to immutable Law; septenary manvantaric differentiations; the ALL of manifested Nature in activity.

Today many of the wonders of this small part of the whole, our Earth, have become part of everyone's experience through the television screen. At one end of the scale, the electron microscope reveals the marvellous intricacies of the cell, while at the other end the radio-telescope brings within the reach of the ordinary man information about the remotest parts of the immediate universe. Yet Esoteric Science affirms that there are other systems, other universes, and that there are other modes of being, especially in the inner worlds, besides the world of "things and lives and minds" of everyday human experience.

It is time to look at the question of origins. Whence the almost unbelievable diversity of living things? Whence the ordered complexity, the design and form, of moss and tree, of butterfly and eagle, and of man himself, of whom Carlyle said, "We are the miracle of miracles, - the great inscrutable mystery of God"? Esoteric Science speaks both of the external world perceived by the senses, the phenomenal world of form, colour and sound, and also of the inner realms of feeling, thought, power and force, of the noumena behind the phenomena.

There are certain general principles that pertain to the total process: the universality of law, the process of evolution as a becoming "from within outwards", the alternation of phases of activity and phases of rest. The second of these principles is particularly relevant to the question of origins; the Cosmos is projected from the noumenal or subjective states of being into the phenomenal or objective planes, by a process that may be regarded analogously as a gradual densification of the spiritual into the material, as water-vapour is condensed into ice. This means in effect that everything in the Cosmos, and the Cosmos itself, exists already before it becomes. The occult teaching says:


Nothing is created, but is only transformed. Nothing can manifest itself in this universe - from a globe down to a vague, rapid thought - that was not in the universe already; everything on the subjective plane is an eternal IS; as everything on the objective plane is an ever-becoming - because transitory. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 570 /I, 623 /II, 293 ]

In a footnote to her commentary on the process of the becoming of a universe, Mme Blavatsky underlines the fact that


Creation is an incorrect word to use, as no religion ... believes in creation out of nihil, as Christians and Jews do, but in evolution out of pre-existing materials. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 233 fn /I, 253 /I, 279 ]

She returns later to the same theme:


Modern exact Science, as soon as it began to grow out of its teens, perceived the great, and, to it, hitherto esoteric axiom, that nothing - whether in the spiritual, psychic, or physical realm of being - could come into existence out of nothing. There is no cause in the manifested universe without its adequate effects, whether in space or time; nor can there be an effect without its primal cause, which itself owes its existence to a still higher one - the final and absolute cause having to remain to man forever an incomprehensible CAUSELESS CAUSE. [The Secret Doctrine-I, 569 /I, 622 /II 293 ]

The periodic emergence of a universe from the plane of subjectivity into the plane of objectivity is the theme of an important explanatory passage in The Key to Theosophy - explanatory, but by no means easy for the mind to grasp, for the "final and absolute cause" referred to above is "an abstraction, on the verge of which human reason - however trained to metaphysical subtleties - trembles, threatening to collapse" [The Secret Doctrine-I, 569 /I, 622 /II 293]. The dialogue between Enquirer and Theosophist proceeds as follows:


ENQ. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?


THEO. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists, see in it the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.


ENQ. All this does not explain to me how this illusion called the universe originates; how the conscious to be proceeds to manifest itself from the unconsciousness that is.


THEO. It is unconsciousness only to our finite consciousness. Verily may we paraphrase verse v, in the 1st chapter of St. John, and say "and (Absolute) light (which is darkness) shineth in darkness (which is illusionary material light); and the darkness comprehended it not". This absolute light is also absolute and immutable law. Whether by radiation or emanation - we need not quarrel over terms - the universe passes out of its homogeneous subjectivity on to the first plane of manifestation, of which planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately known and understood in its physical composition by science is the planetary or Solar system - one sui generis, we are told.


ENQ. What do you mean by sui generis?


THEO. I mean that, though the fundamental law and the universal working of laws of Nature are uniform, still our Solar system (like every other such system in the millions of others in Cosmos) and even our Earth, has its own programme of manifestations differing from the respective programmes of all others. We speak of the inhabitants of other planets and imagine that if they are men, i.e. thinking entities, they must be as we are. The fancy of poets and painters and sculptors never fails to represent even the angels as a beautiful copy of man - plus wings. We say that all this is an error and a delusion; because, if on this little earth alone one finds such a diversity in its flora, fauna and mankind - from the seaweed to the cedar of Lebanon, from the jellyfish to the elephant, from the Bushman and Negro to the Apollo Belvedere - alter the conditions cosmic and planetary, and there must be as a result quite a different flora, fauna and mankind. The same laws will fashion quite a different set of things and beings even on this our plane, including in it all our planets. How much more different then must be external nature in other Solar systems, and how foolish it is to judge of other stars and worlds and human beings by our own, as physical science does! [The key to theosophy -, 84]

Now the titles of the two volumes of The Secret Doctrine, Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis, indicate the two aspects into which the subject of origination may usefully be divided for purposes of study and exposition - the becoming of the Cosmos and the becoming of Man. Yet, although they may be studied separately, the student is warned against allowing himself to regard them as two unrelated fields.


Let us study Man, therefore; but if we separate him for one moment from the Universal Whole, or view him in isolation ... we shall either land in black magic or fail most ingloriously in our attempt. [--- The Secret Doctrine-III, 437 /V, 419 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 517 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 350]

The reason for this is clear; both Cosmos and Man arise in the One, and indeed are that one:


If the student bears in mind that there is but One Universal Element, which is infinite, unborn, and undying, and that all the rest - as in the world of Phenomena - are but so many various differentiated aspects and transformations (correlations, they are now called) of that One, from Cosmical down to microcosmical effects, from superhuman down to human and subhuman beings, the totality, in short, of objective existence - then the first and chief difficulty will disappear and Occult Cosmology may be mastered. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 75 /I, 104 /I, 142]

At the end of the first part of Volume I of The Secret Doctrine, Mme Blavatsky attempts to recapitulate some of the basic teachings thus far expounded. In the following passage from a comprehensive summary of the whole process, the footnotes have been incorporated into the paragraph:


The active Power, the "Perpetual motion of the great Breath", only awakens Kosmos at the dawn of every new Period, setting it into motion by means of the two contrary Forces [the centripetal and the centrifugal forces, which are male and female, positive and negative, physical and spiritual, the two being the one Primordial Force], and thus causing it to become objective on the plane of Illusion. In other words, that dual motion transfers Kosmos from the plane of the Eternal Ideal into that of finite manifestation, or from the noumenal to the phenomenal plane. Everything that is, was, and will be, eternally IS, even the countless forms, which are finite and perishable only in their objective, not in their ideal Form. They existed as Ideas, in the Eternity [Occultism teaches that no form can be given to anything, either by nature or by man, whose ideal type does not already exist on the subjective plane. More than this; that no such form or shape can possibly enter man's consciousness, or evolve in his imagination, which does not exist in prototype, at least as an approximation], and, when they pass away, will exist as reflections. Neither the form of man, nor that of any animal, plant or stone, has ever been created, and it is only on this plane of ours that it commences "becoming", i.e. objectivizing into its present materiality, or expanding from within outwards, from the most sublimated and supersensuous essence into its grossest appearance. Therefore our human forms have existed in the Eternity as astral or ethereal prototypes; according to which models, the Spiritual Beings (or Gods), whose duty it was to bring them into objective being and terrestrial Life, evolved the protoplasmic forms of the future Egos from their own essence. After which, when this human Upadhi or basic mould was ready, the natural terrestrial Forces began to work on those supersensuous moulds which contained, besides their own, the elements of all the past vegetable and future animal forms of this globe in them. Therefore, man's outward shell passed through every vegetable and animal body before it assumed this human shape. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 282 /I, 302 /I, 324]

What is stated here with regard to the forms of the different kingdoms of Nature, that is, that their archetypes existed in the Eternity before they were brought forth and given physical expression - is equally true of their subtle counterparts in each of the planes of Nature. The origins of the inner principles of man, as of everything else, are to be sought in the primordial Substance that comes into being with the polarization of the One Element and its differentiation into the primary Elements. All potentialities, all the capabilities of Life, are here present, involved during earlier cycles of manifestation and now to be evolved during the present one. Every faculty we have as human beings has been developed in this way, to be further developed by use in our humanity. The cyclic process has, it has been well said, no conceivable beginning or imaginable end, yet each recurrent cycle "evinces a progressive march towards a higher life" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 277 /I, 297 /I, 319]. The active period of phenomenal existence, the Manvantara, expresses in the time-space world the possibilities impressed into the dormancy or "non-existence" of noumenal being, the Pralaya.


Three distinct representations of the Universe in its three distinct aspects are impressed upon our thought by the esoteric philosophy: the PRE-EXISTING (evolved from) the EVER-EXISTING; and the PHENOMENAL - the world of illusion, the reflection, and shadow thereof. During the great mystery and drama of life known as the Manvantara, real Kosmos is like the object placed behind the white screen upon which are thrown the Chinese shadows, called forth by the magic lantern. The actual figures and things remain invisible, while the wires of evolution are pulled by the unseen hands; and men and things are thus but the reflections, on the white field, of the realities behind the snares of Mahamaya, or the great Illusion. This was taught in every philosophy, in every religion, ante- as well as post-diluvian, in India and Chaldea, by the Chinese as by the Grecian Sages. In the former countries these three Universes were allegorized, in exoteric teachings, by the three trinities emanating from the central eternal germ and forming with it a Supreme Unity: the initial, the manifested and the creative Triad, or the three in One. The last is but the symbol, in its concrete expression, of the first ideal two. Hence Esoteric philosophy passes over the necessarianism of this purely metaphysical conception, and calls the first one only the Ever-Existing. This is the view of every one of the six great schools of Indian philosophy - the six principles of that unit body of WISDOM of which the "gnosis", the hidden knowledge, is the seventh. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 278 /I, 298 /I, 320]


CHAPTER -10- [ BOOK -I-]


The subject matter of this chapter illustrates several times over the Great Hermetic Axiom, expressed by Mme Blavatsky in these words:


As is the Inner, so is the outer; as is the Great, so is the Small; as it is above, so it is below; there is but ONE LIFE AND LAW; and he that worketh it is ONE.

[Bowen Notes]

As the first example, Occult Science shows that universal law, which links every effect to an antecedent cause, must apply to the earth itself just as it applies to every being on it. If every life-form had its causative antecedents, so also must the planet have had its preceding cause in another mode of existence. The recognition that this must be so extends our view of the history of life on earth into a past of scarcely imaginable duration, into world systems that existed before ours - and similarly forwards into a future with no conceivable limit.

Furthermore, Occult Science rejects the notion of creation ex nihilo, replacing it by the universal principle of the periodical projection "from within outwards" of pre-existent already conditioned subjective being into objective manifestation.


As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man's external body, can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse ... so with the external or manifested universe. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 274 /I, 295 /I, 317]

Again, as man is a sevenfold entity, having his seven principles, so also are the planets sevenfold, each having its seven corresponding principles. The parallel between man and planet is given in some detail by one of the Adept Teachers:


Law in Nature is uniform and the conception, formation, birth, progress and development of the child differs from those of the globe only in magnitude ... The correspondence between a mother-globe and her child-man may be thus worked out. Both have their seven principles. In the Globe, the elementals (of which there are in all seven species) form (a) a gross body, (b) her fluidic double (linga sariram), (c) her life principle (jiva); (d) her fourth principle kama rupa is formed by her creative impulse working from centre to circumference; (e) her fifth principle (animal soul or Manas, physical intelligence) is embodied in the vegetable (in germ) and animal kingdoms; (f) her sixth principle (or spiritual soul, Buddhi) is man (g) and her seventh principle (Atma) is in a film of spiritualized akasa that surrounds her. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -15, 93:91]

This passage is followed by an illuminating account of the evolution of the kingdoms on the globes, from mineral to man.

The frequent reference to examples of the septenary principle in Nature shows it to be one of the keys to an understanding of the cosmic scheme. In Esoteric Buddhism, the first attempt to make a systematic presentation of the occult teaching, Mr Sinnett drew attention to this septenary characteristic of the cosmic order.


By what prophetic instinct Shakespeare pitched upon seven as the number which suited his fantastic classification of the ages of man, is a question with which we need not be much concerned, but certain it is that he could not have made a more felicitous choice. In periods of sevens the evolution of the races of man may be traced, and the actual number of the objective worlds which constitute our system, and of which the earth is one, is seven also. Remember the occult scientists know this as a fact, just as the physical scientists know for a fact that the spectrum consists of seven colours, and the musical scale of seven tones. There are seven kingdoms of Nature, not three as modern science has imperfectly classified them. Man belongs to a kingdom distinctly separate from that of the animals, including beings in a higher state of organization than that which manhood has familiarized us with, as yet; and below the mineral kingdom there are three others which science in the West knows nothing about ... [ Esoteric Buddhism -IV, 57]

To these examples of "the regular operation of the septenary law in Nature" there must now be added the seven planes of the Cosmos, the seven globes that constitute a chain or planetary system, the seven rounds or periods of activity of each chain, the seven races of mankind with their seven sub-races. The particular meaning of the terms here introduced must now be briefly explained, for since none of this information had previously been given out in the English - or any other European - language, an appropriate terminology had first to be agreed between Mr Sinnett and his Teachers when they began to introduce into their correspondence with him what were then completely novel ideas. Among the terms employed here are:

CHAIN - a system of a physical globe and six related invisible globes, "a chain of beads, and each bead a world" [The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -12, 66:66];

ROUND (or RING) - the passage of a life-impulse round the seven globes of a chain, and therefore the period of activity of a chain;

LIFE-IMPULSE (also called the tide of life, the wave of existence, the spiritual impulse) - the activating principle which carries the evolutionary stream forward from one globe to the next;

RACE - a human group that has reached a certain evolutionary stage, physically, psychically and mentally.

Man lives out his evolutionary progress on seven planes. In each incarnation a personality that emerges is the result of tendencies and faculties developed through past lives - the skandhas or seed-characteristics of his own making, the inheritance he bequeaths to himself for his future. Similarly the globes of a chain correspond to the seven principles in man. Each globe in turn becomes the stage on which emerge and are developed the seed-characteristics inherited from its predecessor, and similarly too, as a term of activity of a chain draws to a close, the total life of each dying globe is passed on to the next corresponding globe in a new sevenfold chain.


It is said that the planetary chains, having their "Days" and their "Nights" - i.e., periods of activity or life, and of inertia or death - behave in heaven as do men on Earth: they generate their likes, get old, and become personally extinct, their spiritual principles only living in their progeny as a survival of themselves. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 154 /I, 178 /I, 209]

There is a complication here that must be mentioned, although it cannot be explored in detail at this point. The total Kosmos is a septenary, but the student is advised that the three higher planes are "inaccessible to human intellect as developed at present". The drama of human evolution, and the sevenfold stage on which it is enacted, are within the four lower planes of the Kosmos. Of these four, three are subjective or super-physical, our earth alone being on the plane of sensory perception. Within this field, six of the seven globes of our chain must be envisaged as existing on the subjective or inner planes, three on the arc of descent - that is, of increasing materiality, and three on the arc of ascent - that is, evolving towards an increasingly ethereal condition. A diagram may serve to clarify the teaching. However, in interpreting the diagram it must be realized that it is symbolic only, the globes - like the principles of man - occupying the same "space" (for want of a better term) and being subjective with respect to our earth.

Pictorial Representation of a Chain of Globes

In the study of the seven principles of man, it is clear that only one of these, the physical body, is perceptible to the physical senses. This body is the vehicle (or upadhi) of the other six, three of which, called here the astral body, animal soul and soul, are respectively the vehicles of the other three, life, mind and spirit. Similarly, of the seven globes that form the earth chain, only this earth itself is perceptible to the normal senses, the other six - its "invisible companions" - being on planes beyond their present reach.

A further paragraph summarizes the occult teaching:


... the one eternal LAW unfolds everything in the (to be) manifested Nature on a sevenfold principle; among the rest, the countless circular chains of worlds, composed of seven globes, graduated on the four lower planes of the world of formation ... Out of these seven only one, the lowest and the most material of those globes, is within our plane or means of perception, the six others lying outside of it and being therefore invisible to the terrestrial eye. Every such chain of worlds is the progeny and creation of another, lower and dead chain - its reincarnation, so to say. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 152 /I, 176 /I, 207]

The potentialities of Spirit that are to be made manifest by the process of e-volution must first become in-volved in matter. This dual process of involution and evolution is described symbolically as the descent of spirit into matter and its ascent out of matter - portrayed in religious mythologies as the incarnation, death and resurrection of the divine Son. When the human stage is reached, the septenary principle is once again shown to operate in the emergence of seven successive major or Root Races during the life of a globe or planet.

In order to appreciate the extensive and detailed information given on the subject of these races and their evolution, the student must first expand enormously his conception of time-periods and recognize the few thousand years of recorded human history as only a very short phase in the story of mankind; he must also abandon altogether the common identification of race with the normal ethnic classification and understand the term to connote seven definite major stages of human evolution. Of the five Root Races that have so far comprised our humanity (two more being destined to emerge in a distant future), the occult teaching states that the first two, having no solid bodies or bone-structures, have left no trace; after the gradual consolidation of the third Race, at about its mid-point, there came about the separation of the sexes from an earlier androgyne phase; the fourth Race is described as "the first completely human species [The Secret Doctrine -II, 227 fn /II, 237 fn /III, 230], while the fifth, the present Race, "was evoluted in Central Asia more than one million years ago" [The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -18, 121:118]. Each of these major Races evolves through seven sub-races, each one of which lasts for many thousands of years, and these in turn produce their "family races" with their further sub-division into tribes or national groups [The Secret Doctrine -II, 434 /II, 454 /III, 433].

A few statements taken from a summary of the total evolutionary process must suffice to indicate the grandeur of the scheme, made public here for the first time:


1. Everything in the metaphysical as in the physical universe is septenary.

2. The evolution of life proceeds on a Chain of seven Globes, round which the life-wave passes seven times, each complete cycle being described as a Round.

3. Our earth is the visible representative of a Chain of seven Globes, the other six being invisible to us at present; it has to live through seven Rounds.

4. The Humanity of our earth develops fully only in the fourth Round, in the course of which emerge seven Root Races, each one evolving through seven sub-races.

5. The Root Races develop originally on different continental land masses, the occult tradition associating the Third and Fourth Races respectively with the now lost continents that have become known by the appropriate names of Lemuria and Atlantis.

A study of the information made available in the literature of Esoteric Science shows how marvellously all the processes involved in the cosmos are coordinated, how everything is superbly ordered to the end that the majority of mankind may, by the close of the Seventh Race of the Seventh Round, have reached such a state of perfection that they may become in their turn the guides and instructors of a new infant humanity.


CHAPTER -11- [ BOOK -I-]


Life, according to The Secret Doctrine, has but one attribute, "eternal, ceaseless motion", hence the significance of the term, the Ever-Becoming, applied to the One Universal Life. Monad is the term used to refer to that Life as it activates the cosmic process. In man it becomes, in conjunction with Manas, the immortal, divine Pilgrim that journeys through the cycles of manifestation. The cycles of manifestation exhibit two modes of operation, involution and evolution, but the overall process is progressive. Occultism recognizes this as a universal and invariable law; involution may be briefly formulated as "a descent of Spirit into Matter" and evolution as "a re-ascent from the depths of materiality towards its status quo ante" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 620 /I, 680 /II, 345].

Now, that which is perfect - the One Life as an abstract, unconditioned essence of Monad - cannot be said to evolve or develop. The process of manifestation, therefore, according to Esoteric Science, does not imply the emergence of any new thing, but rather is it one by which vehicles or forms are developed to give increasing expression to the properties inherent in the aspects of the One Life that animate them. As these properties, the potentialities of spirit, are inexhaustible, no more appropriate word can describe the cosmic process than the EverBecoming. There is, as it were, a constant pressure from the spirit within to develop instruments through which it can manifest those potentialities. The kingdoms of Nature themselves are such instruments, demonstrating the orderly emergence by stages of responsive adaptations. Throughout Nature the operative principle is always "from within outwards". As we saw in Chapter 7,


The whole order of Nature evinces a progressive march towards a higher life. There is design in the action of the seemingly blindest forces. The whole process of evolution with its endless adaptations is a proof of this. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 277 /I, 298 /I, 320]

The occult doctrine recognizes the universality of consciousness, but in varying degrees in everything. It expands as Life progresses through the kingdoms. Today, following the lead of Professor J.C. Bose (an early 20th Century Indian scientist), recognition is accorded among some scientists to evidence for some responsiveness indicating an awareness not only in plants but in metals also. Whereas science observes and studies the physical aspects of living things, Occultism teaches the existence of inner subjective aspects, each material form being the outward expression of an invisible entity. This, however, is only observable by those in whom the requisite faculty of inner perception has been developed. Such individuals may be referred to as occult scientists of various degrees of proficiency. They cover all fields in their investigations from the very small to the very large, the Cosmos. Referring to high Adepts in these arts, themselves the natural product of the evolutionary process, as we saw in Chapter 1, Mme Blavatsky wrote in The Secret Doctrine:


The flashing gaze of those seers has penetrated into the very kernel of matter, and recorded the soul of things there, where an ordinary profane observer, however learned, would have perceived but the external work of form. But modern science believes not in the "soul of things", and hence will reject the whole system of ancient cosmogony. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 272 /I, 293 /I, 316]

It is thus claimed that the statements of Esoteric Science are the records of direct observations, continually corroborated as are the best established pronouncements of physical science, hence the rejection of any notion of "unconscious Nature".


Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS; i.e. endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that because we do not perceive any signs - which we can recognize - of consciousness, say, in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either "dead" or "blind" matter, as there is no "Blind" or "Unconscious" Law. These find no place among the conceptions of Occult philosophy. The latter never stops at surface appearances, and for it the noumenal essences have more reality than their objective counterparts ... [The Secret Doctrine -I, 274 /I, 295 /I, 317 ]

The fact of universal consciousness is further underlined in a footnote which has relevance to the whole field of Esoteric Science, very particularly to the processes of evolution:


Nature, taken in its abstract sense, cannot be "unconscious", as it is the emanation from, and thus an aspect (on the manifested plane) of the ABSOLUTE consciousness. Where is that daring man who would presume to deny to vegetation and even to minerals a consciousness of their own. All he can say is, that this consciousness is beyond his comprehension. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 277 fn /I, 298 /I, 320]

The Life or Monad that animates the forms now inhabiting our planet, in all the kingdoms, has passed through cycles of experience of immense duration in preceding Rounds. For everything has a past, everything has antecedents, and every form is but a present-time and temporary expression of an aspect of the Ever-Becoming. In elaborating the general principle that operates in Nature - from within outwards - Mme Blavatsky refers to a fact of common experience, namely, that each outward act is preceded by an impulse from within, prompted by emotion, thought or volition. The creation of a work of art - whether symphony, painting or edifice of steel and concrete - begins as an idea, its final form being a projection "from within outwards", the inner model transferred from the plane of mind into the plane of sensory perception. The whole cosmic process has proceeded in this manner, ideal patterns that have been developed in one cycle being transferred in due time to our planet, where they gradually become clothed in the matter of the physical plane. The story of man itself illustrates this process: his form as we now know it began as a "shadow" (the Sanskrit word is chhayas) developed by the humanity of the Chain preceding ours. This produced the astral prototype of future mankind which projected the densified physical body in the Third Round, and eventually, through various stages, that of the present Fifth Race man.

Evolution, as popularly understood, is largely concerned with physical changes. Occultism speaks of a triple evolutionary scheme, namely, "the Monadic (or spiritual), the intellectual, and the physical evolutions", the three being "inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 181 /I, 203 /I, 233 ]. All three are represented in the constitution of man, making him "the complex being he now is".

The story of Anthropogenesis or the becoming of man shows how physical Nature could not, unaided, evolve intelligence; a hierarchy of Beings referred to in The Secret Doctrine as Manasaputras, Agnishwatthas or Solar Ancestors of man, made of him a rational being by contributing "the evolutionary power of Intelligence and Mind, the link between 'Spirit' and 'Matter'".

It is little wonder that The Secret Doctrine speaks of "the mystery of evolution". The motive power behind the evolutionary process is derived from two sources: it is


(a) the MONAD, or that which acts in it unconsciously through a force inherent in itself; and (b) the lower astral body or the personal SELF. The former, whether imprisoned in a vegetable or an animal body, is endowed with, is indeed itself, that force. Owing to its identity with the ALL-FORCE, which, as said, is inherent in the Monad, it is all-potent on the Arupa, or formless plane. On our plane, its essence being too pure, it remains all-potential, but individually becomes inactive ... [The Secret Doctrine -II, 109 /II. 115 /III, 117]

To explain the significance of this fact, the illustration is given of the sun that shines regardless of the particular plants on which its rays may fall. The sunbeam does not go in search of the plant hidden in the shade. Similarly, the highest Self in man, his Ego, must maintain its contact with its source, the Monad, failing which it will be held in bondage by the lower personal self.


It is a strange law of Nature that, on this plane, the higher (Spiritual) Nature should be, so to say, in bondage to the lower. Unless the Ego takes refuge in the Atman, the ALL-SPIRIT, and merges entirely into the essence thereof, the personal Ego may goad it to the bitter end. [The Secret Doctrine -II, 109 /II. 115 /III, 117]

The seven stages of the human pilgrimage represented by the seven Root Races are shown to bring about two distinct phases of the evolutionary process, first the preparation of the vehicles, the perfecting of the physical form, and then their subjection to the will of the higher Ego whose goal is the attainment of immortality by conscious reunion with the Monad from which it came forth. The first phase is characterized by the "fierce Selfishness and animal desire to live" of the personal ego intent on the building of the physical tabernacle. After the midpoint is reached, the higher Ego has the task of asserting itself as master over the builder. This explanation is crucial to our understanding both of the stage of our present humanity and of the difficulties experienced by the change of direction of evolutionary progress.


... For the first three and a half Root-Races, up to the middle or turning point, it is the astral shadows of the "progenitors", the lunar Pitris, which are the formative powers in the Races, and which build and gradually force the evolution of the physical form toward perfection - this, at the cost of a proportionate loss of spirituality. Then, from the turning point it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the Nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it wherever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of human evolution - at least they ought to be so.[The Secret Doctrine -II, 110 /II, 116 /III, 118]

The processes of evolution are seen to be orderly, sequential and purposive. What is achieved at any one stage becomes incorporated into the next. The mineral which provides the vegetable and animal kingdoms with their necessary elementary material is itself the expression of countless elemental lives. The ideal forms already exist in the inner worlds; they are brought forth into the physical world by the building of dense material around the astral models. This is the work of the elementals who, in their own kingdoms, evolved the abilities necessary for carrying out this function. They are the workmen, obedient - even if not wholly efficient - to the will of the architects and directors, the upper Hierarchies.

A further example of the utilization of past achievements in further advances is found in the methods of reproduction of the early human races. These methods are briefly summarized in The Secret Doctrine: the First Race reproduced by fission, a method utilized in the amoeba and in cell-division; the Second Race reproduced by budding, the offspring growing out from the parent until it can lead an independent existence, as in the sea-anemone, hydra and many vegetables; both the Second and early Third Races developed a kind of hermaphroditism, male and female organs inhering in the same individual and producing a single cell which developed into a multi-cellular organism with the features of the parent, as in most plants and in worms and snails; with the later Third Race came the separation of the sexes and true sexual union. Again, the development of the human embryo illustrates the incorporation of earlier achievements into later developments, the foetus recapitulating early evolutionary stages before the offspring emerges as recognizably human.

The study of the past and of the principles underlying evolutionary advance points to the inescapable fact that we all, individually and collectively, are the humanity whose evolution is the central theme of Esoteric Science.


The Cycles of Matter will be succeeded by Cycles of Spirituality and a fully developed mind. On the law of parallel history and races, the majority of the future mankind will be composed of glorious Adepts. Humanity is the child of cyclic Destiny, and not one of its Units can escape its unconscious mission, or get rid of the burden of its co-operative work with nature. Thus will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. [The Secret Doctrine -II, 446 /II, 456 /III, 444]


CHAPTER -12- [ BOOK -I-]


Spiritualism, as commonly understood, is a view of life that recognizes the survival of a personal "soul" or "spirit" (terms which are too often used without clear definition or distinction) after the death of the body, and the ability of that surviving entity to communicate with the living through the intermediary of a sensitive or medium. Psychism is a general term that embraces a range of paranormal occurrences and faculties, such as materializations, poltergeists, mediumship, pre-cognition, out-of-the-body experiences, psychometry, clairvoyance and clairaudience. In Occult Science the phenomena associated with both spiritualism and psychism are systematically studied and coherently explained. The information given in the literature is extensive, detailed and consistent, and is shown to be part of the total system. Moreover, it is offered not as speculative but as empirically ascertained and capable of corroboration, having been obtained by the use of faculties possessed by all but developed in only a few.

The theosophical system is one integrated whole; consequently relevant information will be found throughout this study. Several of the preceding chapters provide the key data on which the theosophical explanations are based, in particular Chapter 3, The Occult Constitution of Cosmos and Man; Chapter 5, Akasha and the Astral Light; Chapter 6, Elements and Elementals; and Chapter 8, Death and Rebirth.

In relation to spiritualism, it will be clear that the explanations offered by Esoteric Science do not dispute the reality of seance phenomena, for example, (except, of course, where these are fraudulently produced). The evidence of their occurrence is abundantly documented and is not in question. What is disputed is the claim that such phenomena, which include messages received through a medium, apports or physical manifestations, are attributable to the intervention of the "spirits" of deceased persons. This immediately separates the theosophical philosophy from spiritualism. The Theosophical Glossary shows clearly the difference between the two views in the definition of Materializations:


In Spiritualism the word signifies the objective appearance of the so-called "Spirits" of the dead, who reclothe themselves occasionally in matter; i.e. they form for themselves out of the materials at hand, which are found in the atmosphere and the emanations of those present, a temporary body bearing the human likeness of the defunct as he appeared, when alive. Theosophists accept the phenomenon of "materialization" but they reject the theory that it is produced by "Spirits", i.e. the immortal principles of the disembodied persons. Theosophists hold that when the phenomenon is genuine ... it is produced by the larvae, the eidola or Kamalokic "ghosts" of the dead personalities.

Mme Blavatsky uses the Greek word eidolon, meaning image or phantom, for this remnant of the deceased personality, "the shadowy form or the human double" [ The key to theosophy - VI, 96]. In normal circumstances this eidolon quickly disperses at the death of the Body, its natural environment being the Kama-loka,


the semi-material plane to us subjective and invisible, where the disembodied "personalities", the astral forms, called Kama-rupa remain, until they fade out from it by the complete exhaustion of the effects of the mental impulses that created these eidolons of human and animal passions and desires. [The Theosophical Glossary -, 171]

Firstly then, Occult Science gives a view of the sevenfold constitution of man, as a unit of consciousness functioning through four vehicles (namely, the physical, the linga sarira, the mayavi rupa and the auric envelope [see later]). When at death the densest of these, the physical body, ceases to function, the other three remain. Faced with "the objection made by the materialists, who deny the possibility of mind and consciousness acting without physical matter", Mme Blavatsky counters with the pertinent comment:


We do not deny the soundness of their argument; we simply ask our opponents, "Are you acquainted with all the states of matter, you who knew hitherto but of three [solid, liquid and gaseous]? [ The key to theosophy - I, 100]

Next, the literature of Occult Science employs the word "spirit" with a precision and consistency that are largely lacking among spiritualists. The true Spirit in man is the spiritual entity or Ego (the Higher Triad); for which, after the severing of the silver cord, there can be no return to earth for there is then no connecting link. What remains of the deceased when the Ego has departed to Devachan [The key to theosophy - VIII and IX] is no more than a shell, a residue of the lower vehicles of the personality that was, but with some residual consciousness. Just as a discarded overcoat may retain for a time the shape of its former wearer, so also the discarded vestures of the Ego retain some of the characteristics of the late personality. It is these remains that in materializations may be reclothed with the substance provided by a medium and maybe the sitters, and which may be to an extent enlivened by Elementals. They appear as the astral double or kama-rupa of the deceased, a life-like picture or ephemeral likeness of the late personality.

The mayavi-rupa is a form created generally unconsciously but maybe consciously (certainly in the case of an Adept) by thought. It can be projected away from the physical body when it becomes a body of projection (astral). Such a form often appears at the instant of death to a loved one or other whom the one dying was thinking at the time.

In order to understand the source of the content of the "messages" received through the medium apparently from the deceased, reference must again be made not only to the residual consciousness and memory of the "shell" but also to what was said about Elementals and the nature of the Astral Light (see Chapters 5 and 6). It was there stated, in a quotation endorsed by Mme Blavatsky, that "the impression of every thought we think and every act we perform is indelibly stamped on the invisible and indestructible tablets of the Astral Light". The remarkable psychometric perceptions described by Professor Denton in The Soul of Things support the teaching of Esoteric Science to the effect that such records may be preserved for all time. Just as a clairvoyant's vision is not impeded by material obstacles, so the particular sensitivity of a psychometer is not obstructed by time, for every object preserves the record of its own past, and it is this record in the Astral Light that the sensitive is able read. The Elementals have the ability to enliven these pictures and impress mediums with them, so that 'spirits' may 'come through' speaking in ancient languages, or with a knowledge of past times and so on.

At the end of Chapter 6 a brief mention was made of Elementaries, defined there as shells or "half-dead human beings". As mentioned above, they are the residual kamic and lower mental principles, with their memories and fading consciousness of the disembodied man that was. In nature they are likely to manifest particularly the evil tendencies of those individuals who had led evil lives, sometimes to such an extent that a separation of the higher principles from the lower even during earth life had taken place. These disintegrating remnants of the personality are capable of being temporarily revivified and rendered partially conscious by the thought-currents, or magnetic currents, of living persons, hence the attraction of the seance room, where the peculiar psychic constitution of the medium, aided by Elementals, provides the power for such revivification. The Elementaries are


the disembodied souls of the depraved; these souls having at some time prior to death separated from themselves their divine spirits ... Once divorced from their higher triads and their bodies, these souls remain in their Kama-rupic envelopes, and are irresistibly drawn to the earth amid elements congenial to their gross natures. Their stay in the Kama Loka varies as to its duration; but ends invariably in disintegration, dissolving like a column of mist, atom by atom, in the surrounding elements. [The Theosophical Glossary -, 112]

Both Elementals and Elementaries are amoral and irresponsible; the former can be used to enliven the latter, as described above. Elementaries are the undesirable remnants of the deceased and can sometimes be not merely mischievous but even dangerous, e.g. poltergeists.

An understanding of the mechanism of materializations and of the nature of the entities that produce the phenomena associated with spiritualism will make clear the reason why students of Occult Science would discourage, or even condemn, practices that seek to bring back the dead to the earth they have left. This attitude is clearly and unequivocally explained in the definition of the Kama-rupa or "desire-body" given in the Theosophical Glossary. The passage in question gives an account of the processes of death as they affect the principles of man.


Kamarupa. Metaphysically, and in our esoteric philosophy, it is the subjective form created through the mental and physical desires and thoughts in connection with things of matter, by all sentient beings, a form which survives the death of their bodies. After that death three of the seven "principles" - or let us say planes of senses and consciousness on which the human instincts and ideation act in turn - viz., the body, its astral prototype and physical vitality, - being of no further use, remain on earth; the three higher principles, grouped into one, merge into the state of Devachan, in which state the Higher Ego will remain until the hour for a new reincarnation arrives; and the eidolon of the ex-Personality is left alone in its new abode. Here, the pale copy of the man that was, vegetates for a period of time, the duration of which is variable and according to the element of materiality which is left in it, and which is determined by the past life of the defunct. Bereft as it is of its higher mind, spirit and physical senses, if left alone to its own senseless devices, it will gradually fade out and disintegrate. But, if forcibly drawn back into the terrestrial sphere whether by the passionate desires and appeals of the surviving friends or by regular necromantic practices - one of the most pernicious of which is mediumship - the "spook" may prevail for a period greatly exceeding the span of the natural life of its body. Once the Kamarupa has learnt the way back to living human bodies, it becomes a vampire, feeding on the vitality of those who are so anxious for its company. [The Theosophical Glossary -, 172]

Some brief reference must be made to other kinds of phenomena included under the broad term of psychism. In mediumship the sensitive has various modes of functioning. He (or more often she) may be clairvoyantly or clairaudiently aware, so that he can see or hear in the Astral Light, or he maybe passively sensitive so that he can go easily into trance or he may be able to make available energy or ethereal substance, or both together, in order to allow the materialization to occur. In the passive state of trance, the medium can in no way determine what kind of entity will take advantage of the opportunity he offers to experience again the contact with physical matter. Were it not for the law that "like attracts like", which protects pure, well-intentioned mediums from possession by entities of too undesirable a kind, the danger of such possession would be greater than it is. Mediumistic ability in itself is in no sense undesirable, but because of the necessary passivity of the medium he will be subject to the dangers to which it exposes those who are endowed with it; it has to be brought under control and used at will. Mme Blavatsky is an example of one who, endowed from birth with marked mediumistic tendencies, was trained so to control her natural gifts as to become not a medium but a magician proper, a real occultist.

In materialization, the bodily image of a human "visitor" may be, as seen above, the form of its astral double or kama-rupa, but it may also be an impression from the Astral Light, enlivened and animated by Elementals. The material of the apparition, ectoplasm, is drawn from the body of the medium, who is found to lose weight as the phantom becomes more solid, and to regain it as the phantom fades away.

In recent years out-of-the-body experiences have been carefully recorded and studied. Such experiences often take the form of looking down on one's own body, especially when the body has been made unconscious as the result of a serious accident or under an anaesthetic on the operating table. In such cases the consciousness is transferred to the Linga Sarira, the Astral Body. It is this body to a very limited extent, or more often the Mayavi-rupa, that is used in so-called astral travel.


When a man visits another in his Astral body, it is the Linga Sharira which goes, but this cannot happen at any great distance. When a man thinks of another at a distance very intently, he sometimes appears to that person. In this case it is the Mayavi Rupa, which is created by unconscious Kriyashakti, and the man himself is not conscious of appearing. [--- /The Secret Doctrine -III, 588 /V, 561 /The Collected Writings of H.P.Blavatsky -XII, 706 /The Esoteric writings of H.P.Blavatsky -, 461]

Kriyashakti, one of the six Forces or Powers in Nature through which the seventh, the One Force, is expressed, is defined as:


the mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy. The ancients held that any idea will manifest itself externally if one's attention is deeply concentrated upon it. Similarly an intense volition will be followed by the desired result. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 293 /I, 312 /I, 333]

Phenomena involving Elementals embrace a wide range of happenings which appear miraculous to those who are ignorant of their cause or of their modus operandi, as for example the dematerialization of objects and their rematerialization in some other place. An occultist may have the power to control Elementals and to order them to produce the phenomena he desires. In hypnotism, the subject's lower principles are divorced from the higher Triad and made to act according to the bidding of the hypnotist; the effect is akin to sleep-walking, when the body acts independently of the conscious control of the mind. Psychometry, as mentioned earlier, is the ability to see the timeless images in the Astral Light. Together with clairvoyance and clairaudience, this unusual degree of psychic sensitivity may be compared with other natural gifts such as spontaneous true pitch or the unconscious talent of the artist and musician. None of these gifts, however, is necessarily indicative of spiritual development.

CHAPTER -13- [ BOOK -I-]


In this chapter an attempt is made to review the vast and marvellous process described in Esoteric Science. Process implies purpose, and it becomes evident that the purpose of the grand scheme is epitomized in the words of the title, Spiritual Development - the unfoldment of the potentialities of Spirit. Humanity is a critical stage in the process, for it is in the human kingdom that the process becomes self-conscious.

The Life that is the very Being of the universe and of the infinite number of lives that compose it is the MONAD: it is the ONE manifesting in countless hosts of lives at every stage of development. The unmanifested ONE, the ALL in potential, is said to breath out from ITSELF, a breath , the ONE manifest, called Monadic Essence: it is the Essence of all Being. From this Monadic Essence issues a multiple Ray, countless rays collectively - these are but words to describe the indescribable and almost infinite variety of forms used by the ONE LIFE, while as the "Pilgrim" it journeys through the planes of Nature, which, with all that comprises them, are themselves emanations of the One. The term Monad is also applied to the "Spark of Eternity" that is seen as the individual Pilgrim, when related to man. It is his two highest principles which form a spiritual Unit, inseparable throughout the pilgrimage. That dual unit is sometimes regarded as a monad when in association with a single form, but it must always remain inseparable from the One Monad.


In the Esoteric Philosophy Buddhi is the upadhi, or "veil of spirit", of Atman, and functions in man as the Discriminating Principle. It is this union of the "two in one", Atma-Buddhi, which constitutes the "Monad". [The Divine Plan -, 10]

When the Monadic Essence is embodied successively within the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, it is sometimes termed the Mineral Monad, the Vegetable Monad and so on (but it is never a discrete principle), although it would be more correct to speak of "the Monad manifesting in that form of Prakriti [matter] called the Mineral Kingdom" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 178 /I, 201 /I, 230], for such a term as the Mineral Monad means in effect that "the tidal wave of spiritual evolution is passing through that arc of its circuit" [The Secret Doctrine -I, 178 /I, 201 /I, 230].

Through the lower kingdoms of Nature, the Monadic Life has passed in virtual unconsciousness to the point where, in the animal, there begins to emerge a sense of self and otherness. In man the possession of lower and higher mind bestows not only consciousness but also self-consciousness. The latter enables him to be aware of his physical surroundings - through his senses - and also his subjective reactions to them by way of the thoughts and feelings provoked by them. These are also objective to his 'self' as subject. It may seem easy to compress into these few words the facts of the evolutionary process, but the student should not lose from sight the immense periods of time, the incalculable experiences of effort, of striving, of success and failure, that must have preceded the condition of this relative self-consciousness that is the characteristic of present mankind.

After long ages there comes a time in the life of the individual when he questions the purpose of life, and of his own life in particular. It is here that some understanding of Esoteric Science becomes of practical value, for the man perceives not only the route by which he has travelled to his present position, but also the way that lies ahead. The purpose of human life is nothing less than the unfoldment of the "deific powers" - a tremendous and awe-inspiring phrase! - that reside within each man. The goal is the realization of the unity of all life, not only of the family of man but of all living things. The intellectual appreciation of this fact is itself an emergent faculty, and, assisted by the ethical precepts of religion - precepts that have been transmitted through the ages by wise men fully acquainted with the truths of Occult Science - the individual recognizes the implications of the fact of unity, he has the actual experience of UNITY, he KNOWS his identity with the One and he therefore accepts his responsibility and bond of duty towards the whole, and sees the necessity for altruism.

We have seen that the cosmic scheme is a living whole, composed of an incalculable number of beings grouped in series of hierarchies, yet all rooted in the One Life.


From Gods to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being - the world of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 604 /I, 662 /II, 329]

These links are the beings forming the hierarchical Ladder of Life. In The Secret Doctrine the Beings of the superior Hierarchies are distinguished by appropriate names that indicate their function in the scheme: such are the Creators, Architects, Builders, Watchers, as also the Recorders who are described as


Entities of the higher worlds in the hierarchy of Being, so immeasurably high that, to us, they must appear as Gods, and collectively - GOD. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 133 /I, 157 /I, 190]

Of the diversity and varied functions of these Beings, The Secret Doctrine, extending what was quoted in Chapter 4, teaches:


The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who - whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels - are 'messengers' in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence; and to call them all pure Spirits without any of the earthly alloy "which time is wont to prey upon" is only to indulge in poetical fancy. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 274 /I, 295 /I, 317]

Yet, however varied and numerous, all these lives are linked and of the same kin, for the same life flows through all; this means that what affects one affects all, and the perception of this truth shows both the interdependence of all the forms of life and the duty of every part towards the whole. Now the study of the constitution of man in the light of Occult Science shows how every faculty must have a vehicle through which it can be expressed. The vehicle of the personal mind serves the faculty of objective knowing, but actually to experience the unity of life another faculty is required, and for this another principle must be called into activity. This is Buddhi, always present but beyond the conscious reach of the personal mind until a bridge between the higher and the lower functions of mind has been developed, that is, mind made responsive both to buddhic influences and at the same time to kama. This bridge, which connects "the divine Ego and the personal Soul of man", is known as the Antahkarana. Its function is described thus in the Theosophical Glossary:


It serves as a medium of communication between the two, and conveys from the Lower to the Higher Ego all those personal impressions and thoughts of men which can, by their nature, be assimilated and stored by the undying Entity, and be thus made immortal with it, these being the only elements of the evanescent Personality that survives death and time. It thus stands to reason that only that which is noble, spiritual and divine in man can testify in Eternity to his having lived.

It is here that the occult doctrine endorses the ethical teachings of religion by explaining the rationale behind such injunctions as "Love one another". The virtues inculcated by most religions, and more specifically set out for aspirants to the higher life, are the means by which one may break through the limitations of the personal, self-centred mind and experience the unity of all life. Apart from these ethical constraints, the mechanism by which the bridge is built is meditation, a practice which, by stilling the restlessness of the personal mind, makes it possible for the influence of the ever-present spiritual nature to be felt in daily life.


CHAPTER -14- [ BOOK -I-]


The source of religious teachings lies, according to the occult tradition, in a past far antedating any recorded history.


The mysteries of Heaven and Earth, revealed to the Third Race by their celestial teachers in the days of their purity, became a great focus of light, the rays from which became necessarily weakened as they were diffused and shed upon an uncongenial, because too material soil. With the masses they degenerated into Sorcery, taking later on the shape of exoteric religions, of idolatry full of superstitions, and man-, or hero-worship. Alone a handful of primitive men - in whom the spark of divine Wisdom burned bright, and only strengthened in its intensity as it got dimmer and dimmer with every age in those who turned it to bad purposes - remained the elect custodians of the Mysteries revealed to mankind by the divine Teachers. There were those among them, who remained in their Kumaric condition from the beginning; and tradition whispers, what the secret teachings affirm, namely, that these Elect were the germ of a Hierarchy which never died since that period. [The Secret Doctrine -II, 281 /II, 294 /III, 283]

The celestial teachers in the above passage were those who, having reached full manhood in the Moon Chain (i.e. the Chain before ours), came to our earth as Instructors; they had finished their human evolution and did not incarnate into the chhayas or forms provided by the Lunar Pitris, who were at a lower stage of development but from whom man got his present bodily form (chhaya). The light of the true teaching has persisted throughout the ages, but in historical times, except for some few illumined men, it has shone only from behind the screen of superstition and ignorance in the forms of exoteric religions. In some of these the light is so obscured as to be hardly perceptible; in some others the veil is thinner, allowing beams of the pure light to penetrate it. That light is indeed the original inspiration behind the classical religious literature of the world, and is least obscured where the old wordings have suffered least from translation and intentional or unwitting modification.

It is sometimes mistakenly thought that the occult doctrine stands in opposition to religion. This is clearly not so. The Preface to The Secret Doctrine, for example, states that among the aims of the work are two of particular relevance to our study, namely,


to rescue from degradation the archaic truths which are the basis of all religions; and to uncover, to some extent, the fundamental unity from which they all spring ... [The Secret Doctrine -I, viii /I, xxi /I, 8]

The esoteric philosophy is not an attempt to make a new religion by a synthesis of existing ones, nor is it in itself a new religion, for


The Secret Doctrine was the universally diffused religion of the ancient and prehistoric world. Proofs of its diffusion, authentic records of its history, a complete chain of documents, showing its character and presence in every land, together with the teaching of all its great adepts, exist to this day in the secret crypts of libraries belonging to the Occult Fraternity. [The Secret Doctrine -I, xxxiv /I, 18 /I, 56]

The ecclesiastical historian Mosheim describes the teaching of Ammonius Saccas in terms that accord with the understanding of modern Theosophists:


Ammonius taught that the religion of the multitude went hand-in-hand with philosophy, and with her had shared the fate of being by degrees corrupted and obscured with mere human conceits, superstition, and lies; that it ought, therefore, to be brought back to its original purity by purging it of this dross and expounding it upon philosophical principles; and that the whole which Christ had in view was to reinstate and restore to its primitive integrity the Wisdom of the ancients - to reduce within bounds the universally-prevailing dominion of superstition - and in part to correct, and in part to exterminate the various errors that had found their way into the different popular religions. [The key to theosophy - I]

As for the mistaken notion that Theosophy is a new religion, the answer is unequivocal:


Is it a new religion, we are asked? By no means; it is not a religion, nor is its philosophy new; for, as already stated, it is as old as thinking mankind. [The Secret Doctrine -I, xxxvi /I, 20 /I, 58]

Those who are generally regarded as the founders of the great religions were all, in Mme Blavatsky's view,


transmitters, not original teachers. They were the authors of new forms and interpretations, while the truths upon which the latter were based were as old as mankind. [The Secret Doctrine -I, xxxvi /I, 20 /I, 58]

Moreover, her support for the religious principle, as distinct from exoteric religious beliefs and practices, is made abundantly clear in this same Introductory section of The Secret Doctrine:


... the esoteric philosophy is alone calculated to withstand, in this age of crass and illogical materialism, the repeated attacks on all and everything man holds most dear and sacred, in his inner spiritual life ... Moreover, esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature. It denies Deity no more than it does the sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract Ens. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions, gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the Ever-Unknowable. [The Secret Doctrine -I, xx /I, 3 /I, 43]"

That the Deity of the esoteric philosophy is no personal 'extra-cosmic and anthropomorphic God' is further asserted in the answers given in The Key to Theosophy to questions about the theosophical attitude to God and Prayer. Mme Blavatsky dismisses the contention that Theosophy is either atheistic or pantheistic, and then adds:


Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every indivisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality. [ The key to theosophy - V]

Is man then to be deprived of comfort and strength in his hour of trial? No indeed, for Mme Blavatsky reminds her readers more than once of the words of Paul - whom she acknowledged to be an Initiate - in his letter to the Corinthians, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Cor iii, 16). If these words be believed, what need can there be for help from an external source? Again in The Secret Doctrine there is this significant passage:


The ever-unknowable and incognizable Karana alone, the Causeless Cause of all cause, should have its shrine and altar on the holy and ever untrodden ground of our heart - invisible, intangible, unmentioned, save through 'the still small voice' of our spiritual consciousness. Those who worship before it ought to do so in the silence and the sanctified solitude of their Souls; making their spirit the sole mediator between them and the Universal Spirit, their good actions the only priests, and their sinful intentions the only visible and objective sacrificial victims to the Presence. [The Secret Doctrine -I, 280 /I, 300 /I, 322]

This passage is one of several in The Secret Doctrine which imply the necessity for a rigorous code of ethics to accompany the theoretical study of Esoteric Science. The aim of that science being "the assimilation of the human soul with the Universal Soul" [Caves and Jungles of Hindostan, 446], a process of purification must prepare the way for its attainment. The first stage of the human pilgrimage, variously described as "the path of outgoing" or "the path of descent", is one of increasing materiality. In the case of our humanity, the lowest point of the descending arc was reached in the Fourth Root Race. We are now at the beginning of the ascending arc, the emergence out of materiality into one of increasing spirituality. This indeed is the vision of the future of mankind placed before us in the panoramic view of Esoteric Science.


The Cycles of Matter will be succeeded by Cycles of Spirituality and a fully developed mind. On the law of parallel history and races, the majority of the future mankind will be composed of glorious Adepts. Humanity is the child of cyclic Destiny, and not one of its Units can escape its unconscious missions, or get rid of the burden of its cooperative work with nature. [The Secret Doctrine -II, 446 /II, 465 /III, 444 ]

The codes of ethics that accompany the teachings of the great religions, in spite of obvious man-made accretions that disfigure rather than enhance them, are closely paralleled by the yama and niyama of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the catalogue of desirable (and undesirable) qualities given in the Sixteenth Discourse of the Bhagavad Gita. These are rungs on the ladder that is to lead to Self-realization. They also provide the basis for future exoteric religions which, cleansed of superstition, are necessary for the guidance of mankind in its long journey to human perfection, Adeptship. Popular religion must stimulate and keep alive the spiritual intuitions which are more or less active in all men. They arise by reason of man's inner constitution wherein all are at one with the One Spirit. This is the indispensable principle of Unity which manifests as the One Life shared by all. This Unity also shows forth as the Law, previously discussed, but of which the twin law of Karma and Reincarnation are aspects.

These form the basis in their turn of the restraints and disciplines essential to the welfare and happiness of humanity. Without them a satisfactory and satisfying civilized society is impossible. Our ethical and moral codes are aspects of these disciplines. Some ceremonial, ritual practices and music would lend colour and suggestive significance to religious teaching, but cannot be see as an end in themselves.

It is to be noted that, although the great Vedantic works insist on the uselessness of ceremonial acts as means of salvation, nowhere is the devotee instructed to abandon their performance, the teaching here being simply that he must not mistake the means for the end. There can be no salvation from outside, no vicarious atonement. Man is his own absolute law-giver and must affect his own salvation himself.

A communication from one of the Adept Teachers to A.P. Sinnett shows the importance those Teachers attached to the highest code of ethics, not only for the spiritual progress of the individual but more especially for the happiness of the human race, and to a truthful theology:


Remember the sum of human misery will never be diminished unto that day when the better portion of humanity destroys in the name of Truth, morality, and universal charity, the altars of their false gods. [The Mahatma Letters to A.P.Sinnett -10, 58:58]

Ethical precepts, given to successive human groups by their Teachers, are based on knowledge of the laws inherent in Nature. It follows that the responsibility of those who have access to the teachings is two-fold: to study further the doctrines of Esoteric Science, then, as far as they can, to live accordingly and to make those teachings more widely available.


Our duty is to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions. To oppose and counteract - after due investigation and proof of its irrational nature - bigotry in every form, religious, scientific, or social, and cant above all, whether as religious sectarianism or as belief in miracles or anything supernatural. What we have to do is to seek to obtain knowledge of all the laws of nature, and to diffuse it. To encourage the study of those laws least understood by modern people, the so-called Occult Sciences, based on the true knowledge of nature, instead of, as at present, on superstitious beliefs based on blind faith and authority. [The key to theosophy - III ]

The Scriptures of the world abound in the seemingly miraculous. The student of Esoteric Science does not necessarily dismiss such accounts as fictional: rather does he adopt the standpoint of Mme Blavatsky when, at the end of Isis Unveiled, she attempted to summarize the principles there enunciated:


There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law - eternal, immutable, ever active. [Isis Unveiled - II, 587]

A happening that one fails to understand may well be called miraculous, but Occult Science asserts that 'there is really nothing above or beyond NATURE and Nature's laws' [ The key to theosophy - XIV]. Seeming miracles may indeed occur but, like the wonders of modern technology, they can be produced only by those who are well acquainted with the nature and processes of Nature herself and are thus able to manipulate the forces involved. Hence the injunction to those who would ally themselves to the forces of Nature for the greater good of humanity:


Help Nature and work on with her, and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators, and make obeisance. [The Voice of the Silence -, Frag.1, v 66 ]



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